South Africa — Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) Jonkershoek hosted their very first Fire & Fynbos Awareness Day on Sunday 18th April 2010 and by all accounts it was a great success. The event was held in the grounds of the Old Manor House in Assegaaibosch, Jonkershoek. It was a day to mark two important milestones, firstly the establishment of the Jonkershoek Station and the anniversary of the wide spread fires that swept through the valley and surrounding mountains in 2009.
The VWS team from both Jonkershoek and Newlands, lead by Kim Marrison, had been hard at work over the past few months ensuring that the event would be a great day out for the entire family. Planning activities to enthral the children, live music, food and exhibits for Dad and Mom, shaded seating for Granny and Grandpa all coming together to make the event the huge success that it was.
The day started off with a buzz of excited chatter as families set-off on the 3.5km Family Fun Walk through the Fynbos gardens. For a first time event, the Walk was very well supported with over 100 pairs of feet taking to the nearby mountain paths!
Those who did not take part in the walk were entertained by Elroy and his amazing Snake Show. Sally the Boa Constrictor, like a true performer patiently endured being passed around, draped over countless shoulders and stroked by eager little hands. The Snake Shows were a definite highlight of the day, as Elroy passed over his love of all things creepy and crawly.
As always there is the ultimate crowd stealer! Shortly after the Family Fun Walk started, the unmistakable sound of helicopter blades slicing through air announced the arrival of Bird Dog Aviation. As Paul and his team arrived in their bright red helicopter the excitement level went up more than a couple of notches! Gently, placing the helicopter on the display area, Paul graciously allowed the children and more than a few adults, to climb aboard and have a look inside.
Throughout the day, the VWS crew tirelessly kept the tempo high with firetruck rides up and over the nearby hill lights and sirens thrilling young and old; abseiling off the creaking tree platform to squeals of triumph as little feet landed safely back on ground; to the treasure hunts with a fire scanner and a blindfold. Exhibits from Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch Municipal Fire Department, Franschhoek Motor Museum, LOrmirans Estate, Western Cape 4×4 Club, Stellenbosch Law Enforcement and other emergency services provided added interest and valuable information to the keen public.
In the early afternoon the VWS, CapeNature and Bird Dog Aviation simulated fire display, had the crowds in awe. The excitement was tangible as the helicopter started up and left the display area. Moments later smoke billowed out from the nearby trees, and soon the arrival of the VWS crews and vehicles signalled the beginning of the display. Demonstrating the various wildfire fighting techniques the VWS team, lead the crowd through a typical deployment and fire-attack scenario which culminated in being water bombed, much to the delight of the sprayed crowd. Coming in to land, Paul was greeted by whistles and applause from a very appreciative crowd.
As the day came to a close, the public gathered on the lawns and under the tents for the wind down concert. Our proudest moment was when the VWS band took to the stage and received enthusiastic applause and support from the audience.
The numerous positive e-mails and comments received from the public have been the measure by which we gauge our success. The question we constantly receive is . Whens the next one!?
To which we reply : Sunday, 17th April, 2011 and were going bigger!