fires in south africa

South Africa:
Ukuvuka is delivering the goods 

(Source: Independent Oline, 8 February 2002

By John Yeld 

It is exactly two years since Capetonians were urged to “Wake up!” to the danger ofwildfires, with the launch of the Cape Argus/ Santam Ukuvuka-Firestop campaign -and they have responded magnificently. The campaign was set up following the huge fires in the southern Peninsula in January 2000 and the management team says much work remains to be done in the second half of the campaign’s four-year term. “Ukuvuka” is Xhosa for “wake up”, and the campaign was initiated to reduce the riskof wildfires by clearing invading alien vegetation from the Peninsula’s natural areas. It also aims to rehabilitate ecologically damaged areas, and to promote employmentopportunities and reduce the fire risk in disadvantaged areas. 
Part of Ukuvuka-Operation Firestop’s success was demonstrated last Thursday when a wildfire broke out on OuKaapseweg just metres from where one of the January 2000 fires started, probably also caused by a cigarette or match thrown from a car. Thursday’s fire was extinguished in less than an hour, said campaign manager Sandra Fowkes. “Firstly, good communications provided by the new R2,7-million radio trunkingsystem enabled a very rapid response to the fire.” 
Ukuvuka-Operation Firestop put R900 000 towards the system, with equal contributions from the Cape Peninsula National Park and the City of Cape Town. “Secondly, a number of people – including one of the volunteer firefighters –
immediately reported the fire, which indicates an increased awareness. Also, thehelicopter was activated immediately, and because park staff were able to get waterand firefighters to the fire-line so quickly, it was out in less than an hour. Ukuvuka-Operation Firestop was making a significant contribution to the lives ofpeople in the city, said Fowkes. “We’ve achieved a significant reduction in the number of fires in Joe Slovo (at Langa), and there’s been an increase in employment,economic opportunities and the development of entrepreneurship in five areas aroundthe peninsula. The core sponsors of Ukuvuka-Operation Firestop are the Cape Argus and Santam,and the initiative is supported by the Cape Times and the 14 Cape Community Newspapers. Other sponsors are the Working for Water Programme of the department of water affairs and forestry, SA National Parks, Total SA, Nedbank, and the City of CapeTown. 
For more information , telephone 0800 005 376 or 021 762 7474. – Reuters 


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