Aerial and ground support ready for Western Cape fire season
The Western Cape Disaster Management, in conjunction with local stakeholders including the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire, officially launched the start of the fire season for the province. “Contracts are in place to secure specialised aerial and ground support for fire fighting this summer in the Western Cape,” Anton Bredell, Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning said during a fire readiness event held at Stellenbosch Airfield on Thursday, 8 December 2022.
Minister Bredell said the provincial government allocated a budget of R13,8 million towards wildfire control for this season. “The 2022/23 summer season is anticipated to be challenging with hot, dry and windy conditions expected across the province. With veld conditions being extremely dry, we have our work cut out for us.”
Minister Bredell said successful fire fighting on a provincial scale requires close cooperation between many different stakeholders. “I want to thank the following organisations for their commitment: City of Cape Town, South African National Parks, Cape Winelands, Overberg, Garden Route, West Coast and Central Karoo District Municipalities, Working on Fire, various forestry companies, CapeNature, private wildfire service providers and the Fire Protection Associations, Fire Services from all the local municipalities and the nearly 2 000 volunteers who will be involved in firefighting and prevention this season.”
Minister Bredell added that the Provincial Disaster Management Centre has during the past decade cemented relationships and developed structures to enable close cooperation between all the entities involved. “We have mutual aid agreements in place, so different units can help one another at short notice and we have established command structures, so everyone knows who is in charge at any wildfire in the province.
He said the Western Cape Government signed a three-year tender with Kishugu Aviation, which provides access to dedicated aerial resources during the peak fire season. The Province also has a three-year tender with NCC Environmental Services for the provision of specialised ground support.
Aerial resources for this season include 20 aircraft for the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre, comprising of eight Spotter aircraft, four fixed wing bombers and eight helicopters. In addition to this, Cape Winelands District Municipality, City of Cape Town and Quick Reaction Force (QRF) will each have two helicopters at its disposal. SanParks will have access to one helicopter. All these aircraft will operate from six strategically placed bases supported by several secondary landing strips.
Minister Bredell urged the public to be responsible with open fires during the coming hot and dry summer months in the province, “as climate change and rapid urbanisation increases the risks associated with wildfires, it is important to remember that our individual behaviour can be the difference between causing or preventing the next runaway fire. Please be safe. Please take all necessary safety precautions with open fires and dispose of all flammable items safely. Something as small as a carelessly discarded cigarette butt can set an entire mountain ablaze and cause significant damage and loss of life.”
Source: Western Cape Government
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