Forest and Bushfires in the Western Cape Region / South Africa; 24 January 2000

Forest and Bushfires in the Western CapeRegion/South Africa

24 January 2000

After one week of bush fires that affected thousands of hectares of scrubland and destroyed several houses, the situation came more and more under control. The fires in the Western Cape have been declared code “green”. Sunday there were a few flare ups as the southeast winds picked up. Today, the winds are calm. A tour of the fire revealed that many of the fynbos species had dispersed seeds using a myriad of forms and mechanisms. The cone bush was the most obvious. The following photographs by GFMC correspondent Mike Calvin show a cone bush before after fire.


As an epilogue of the situation of last week, the GFMC would like to add a report dated last Friday (which reached the GFMC after ceasing work on Friday):

Fridays Afternoon Report: Western Cape Fires 21 January 2000, 13:00 GMT

There has been a intrusion of marine air today along the coastal mountains and valleys. The temperature in Cape Town is in the upper 20s, while to the east in the coastal interior valleys, it is hovering around 40°C. All the fires have reacted well to the decreased temperature and increased humidity, and there were no significant flare-ups during the last 24 hours. A moderate southeast wind is expected on Sunday. Last night, the fire in the West Coast National Park caused the evacuation of a small town, but today, it is “more or less” under control. This fire surprised quite a few ecologists, as the intensity with which this type of coastal vegetation burned was unprecedented.

Following are area totals for some of the fires: West Coast National Park – 6,500 ha; Hout Bay – 3,900 ha; and Kommetjie/Simon’s Town – 4,100 ha. The total cost of suppression so far is $US 3 million. The insurance industry expects over $US 1/2 billion in damage claims. Yesterday, about 120 firefighters were flown to Cape Town from Pretoria to help out.

As the fires wind down, politicians, officials and citizens are talking about better mechanisms for prevention of and response to catastrophic fires in the Western Cape. A good sign.

By Michael Calvin & Deborah Wettlaufer
Hout Bay, South Africa

For visiting earlier reports please click on the daily updates of 18, 19, 20 and 21 January 2000.

Additional information from the GFMC fire information system:
Visit the South Africa photo archive of GFMC.
For more information on recent developments in fire management in South Africa visit the last issue of IFFN:

Wildfire in the Southern African Development Community Conference as part of the Wood for Africa Conference 1999

The National Veld and Forest Fire Act: Act 101 of 1998 of the Republic of South Africa

Integrated Fire Management in Southern Africa

Proposed Co-operative Fire Management in the SADC Countries of Southern Africa

Reduction in Fire Incidents in East Caprivi

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