Botswana — The 182 firefighters are part of a 2,000-strong group that the DFRR trained for veldt firefighting in collaboration with the Australian government. The 182 will be spread across all the districts in Botswana.
“There will be a total of 14 fire suppression camps that will be located in the South East, Ngamiland, Kgalagadi, Ghanzi, Kweneng, Kgatleng, Central and Southern Districts. Each camp will have 13 people who have been trained in basic fire management techniques,” said Joshua Moloi the deputy director of DFRR.
Moloi added that every year, millions of hectares of vegetation is destroyed by fires. This year alone around three million hectares were destroyed.
Ngamiland and Kgalagadi Districts are the most affected, with Ngamiland having 431,605,25 hectares and Kgalagadi with 381,287,50 hectares burnt. Overall 57,619,978 hectares of land have been burnt between years of 2006 and 2011. Districts that have been greatly affected in the period are Central with 14,637,419 hectares, Ghanzi with 11,472,587 hectares and Ngamiland with 11,134,421 hectares.
The employment of the 182 is part of a rapid response strategy in which firefighting teams will be deployed to fire-prone areas.
The teams will camp for three months commencing on September 1 to November 30 – when the prevalence of veldt fires is at its peak. Veldt fires are caused by among others natural forces like lightning and accidents or by human error.
“There are people who carelessly throw away lit cigarettes after smoking or leave fires burning after cooking, ” said Moloi.
He added that the law prohibits indiscriminate torching of the veldt and that doing so constitutes a serious offence. The charge carries a minimum of P1,000 or 12 months in prison or both. Moloi decried the public’s reluctance to report arsonists and said that the culprits are likely to repeat the offence, as they have not been brought to justice.
The specter of uncontrolled fires continues to hover over many communities as government has not been able to maintain firebreaks during the current season. This, according to Moloi was due to problems with the tendering process.
Moloi said that fighting veldt fires should not just be the duty of government, but that communities should also play their role.
“These fire suppression camps are not a replacement for existing fire management structures. Resources mobilisation by dikgosi and the DCs for fire suppression at district level will continue,” he said.