Risk of wildfires to rise this summer

Risk of wildfires to rise this summer

22 December 2008

published by www.iol.co.za

South Africa — The Western Cape faces a major wildfire risk this summer, Working on Fire, the largest veld firefighting agency in South Africa, has warned.

The worst fires are predicted for January and February when it is expected to be exceptionally hot and dry, coupled with stimulated plant growth due to heavier than average winter rain.

Working on Fire’s Western Cape manager, Pierre Combrinck, said weather forecasts showed the province would be entering a five-year phase of longer, wetter winters, with windier, drier summers which in turn meant more wild fires would be experienced.

Traditionally the fire season in the Western Cape is between the beginning of December and the end of April.

Combrinck said veld fire fighters with the WoF programme were preparing for the coming fire season and had already conducted base audits of fire-fighting equipment and personnel.

A WoF firefighting programme involving 400 firefighters is scheduled to take place in Swellendam to prepare the province’s 14 fire teams for the coming season.

This training covers veld fire fighting skills, safety procedures, fitness and teamwork.

WoF chief pilot Grant Morrison said fire fighting aircraft including spotters and helicopters would be flown to the WoF base at Fisantekraal airfield near Durbanville in time to assist firefighters.

“Our pilots will receive refresher training and the aircraft will be prepared and provisioned in anticipation of the fire season,” said Morrison.

With the wild fire season in the northern part of the country tapering off towards the end of the month, WoF National Co-ordinator Michelle Kleinhans said fire-fighting teams are scheduled to go on leave before coming on standby for the southern wild fire season.

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