Vegetation fire breaks out at Hansekop, Grabouw in the Overberg District
A vegetation fire broke out at Hansekop in Grabouw in the Overberg District. Petro Van Rhyn, general manager, Advocacy, CapeNature said, “On 31 January 2022, just before midnight, a fire started with teams mobilised and responding to the fire in the early hours of 1 February 2022. An incident management team, led by CFO Reinhard Geldenhuys of the Overberg District Municipality (ODM), was established and representatives from CapeNature and Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association assisted as planning, operations and logistics section chiefs. The fire burnt in-between young and old fynbos veld, on steep rocky areas, within a kloof adjacent to alien vegetation. The resources deployed on the lines included four helicopters, multiple large water tankers, skid units and ground teams. Operational shifts were divided in 12 hour or 24 hour shifts. Teams were deployed for both day and night operations.”
Van Rhyn added, “It burnt actively for the next two days, being driven by both fuel (alien vegetation and Fynbos) and hot, windy conditions. By the third day, 3 February 2022, the fire had been contained, with isolated hotspots. Teams continued with mop-up operations and monitoring for a further four days to ensure that despite hot and windy conditions, this fire would not pose a threat to life or property. This fire was a typical example where a single incident brought multiple agencies together for a common goal: to extinguish the fire and to protect life and property.”
“The agencies who participated in this fire consisted of CapeNature, City of Cape Town, Overberg District Municipality, Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association, Cape Peninsula Fire Protection Association, Volunteer Wildfire Services, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment: Forestry Support Programme, Nature Conservation Corporation (NCC), Winelands Fire Protection Association, The Quick Reaction Force Aerial Resources (Winelands Fire Protection Association) and Working on Fire (WoF) ground crews and aerial resources.”
“At the time the fire was extinguished, the total hectares burnt were 321 ha, minimising the amount of young fynbos that burnt. A special word of gratitude to Eikenhof Farm who provided a venue for the Incident Command Post and food,” said Van Rhyn.
There was a slip and fall incident (but no injury) due to the steep wet area. No fatalities and no structural damage.
Challenges faced included hot and windy conditions; thick alien vegetation, accessibility and conditions of roads for tankers. Underfoot conditions: steep slopes and wetland pockets.
“CapeNature manages the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, which is part of the Boland Complex, declared as part of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site.”
“Recent research indicates that most of the mountain catchment areas in the Western Cape are experiencing an increase in fire size and frequency. This is of great concern, as it is known that fires that are occurring at repeated short return intervals and that are large are detrimental to Fynbos biodiversity and ecosystem health. When the period between two or more successive fires at a particular point is shorter than the time required for the slowest maturing species to have flowered and set sufficient seed, this could eliminate these species from the vegetation and cause dramatic structural changes in communities, which will have a negative effect on biodiversity.”
“In the mountain catchment areas of the Western Cape non-sprouting (‘reseeders’) overstorey Protea species (such as Protea lorifolia, Protea neriifolia, Protea eximia, Protea repens, Protea laurifolia) are known to be the slowest maturing species in the fynbos and are therefore used as indicator species to set thresholds of potential concern for fire return interval. As a general rule it is said that fire return intervals between successive fires must not be shorter than the time it takes for 50 percent of individuals of the slowest maturing non-sprouting Protea species to have flowered three times.”
“Non-sprouting overstorey Protea species play a critical role in maintaining species richness in the landscape. Increased fire frequency can benefit sprouting (‘resprouters’) species which then leads to overall decreases in plant diversity due to them out-competing reseeding species. Research results have indicated that when the sprouting species take over in abundance, it will have a negative impact on the water yield from the area. It is thus vital to retain tall, non-sprouting species of Protea in fynbos, to keep high densities of sprouters at bay and to ensure that a high water run-off is maintained over a longer period after fire.”
“Fynbos endemic Cape Sugarbirds require flowering proteas (such as Protea lorifolia, Protea neriifolia, Protea eximia, Protea repens) as their primary food source and proteas are also their preferred nesting locations. In return, the proteas are dependent on Cape Sugarbirds for effective pollination of their flowers in order to set proper seed.”
For this reason fire management, both proactive and reactive, is a key aspect of the management of the Boland Complex.
Source: Petro Van Rhyn, general manager, Advocacy, CapeNature