In the wake of the blazes that left 13 000 people homeless in Cape Town last month, the Working on Fire programme has arranged for four foam-spewing aircraft to remain on standby to help fight fires in informal settlements.
“Operation Firewatch” is to monitor selected settlements in the Stellenbosch and Cape Town areas.
The “bombers” are to spray a foam, non-toxic and harmless to humans, to contain the fires, giving firemen a chance to reach the flames with traditional equipment.
Also, cameras used successfully by the forestry industry for the early detection of wildfires are to set off an alarm at the first sign of fire.
When an alarm sounds, four fixed-wing bombers and a spotter plane are to respond from the Stellenbosch airfield and Ysterplaat Air Force Base.
“Since Working on Fire’s inception in 2003, our resources have been used with success in helping firefighters with informal settlement fires and wildfires affecting rural community settlements in other areas of the country,” said Johan Heine, general manager of Working on Fire.
Fires in extremely dense urban settlements in cities required a specialised approach.
“There are many similarities between forest and sawmill fires and fires in densely settled communities where the building material is highly flammable,” Heine said.
“Fuel loads are high, getting access and water to the fire is often difficult and the radiant heat created is extreme.
“The procedures we apply to veld and forest firefighting are equally applicable in these situations. The quicker we can get effective firefighting resources to the fire, the better the chance of keeping it contained.”
This article was originally published on page 4 of The Cape Times on February 04, 2005