NAMIBIA – In an attempt to address forest fires, environment and tourism commenced with its national fire management programme to detect, prevent and suppress fires in anticipation of the fire season from July to January each year.
Spokesperson of environment and tourism Romeo Muyunda said due to the threat posed by fire, particularly in conservation of forest resources, including wildlife, the ministry considers fire management of national importance.
According to him, every year, forest fires burn about 2 million hectares of vegetation in fire-prone regions, threatening lives and property, as well as degrading the environment.
Under the management strategy, he said more effort is on education and training local communities to hone firefighting skills and establishing fire community-based fire crews to assist in cases of fire outbreaks.
Training involves fire behaviour, its effect, prevention, firefighting and management.
The ministry, through the directorate of forestry, can also assist communities and organisations with the basic training and development of fire management plans that will give guidance on how to manage fires.
“We have also started with the internationally practised or early burning, which is pre-planned ignition of fire for specific purposes, such as fuel reduction, habitat modification, improvement of natural resources and removal of encroacher bushes. Even though the fire is generally considered dangerous, pre-planned fire is good, as it provides agricultural and conservation benefits,” he noted.
Currently, the ministry of environment and tourism is in the process of servicing and repairing firefighting engines and complimentary machinery.
Further, the directorate has conducted a needs assessment and it is in the process of ordering additional firefighting equipment to reach out to all fire-prone corners of the country.
Muyunda said the ministry of environment and tourism facilitates the preparation of extensive networks of fire breaks annually – and to this effect, “we have started with clearing fire breaks in fire-prone regions”.
To date, the ministry has cleared 634km out of the expected 3 027km countrywide. In Oshana, 280km has been cleared; Oshikoto: 124km; Ohangwena 50km; Omusati: 100km, and Zambezi: 40. Kavango West and East, Otjozodjupa, Omaheke and Khomas are soon expected to follow.
The occurrence of fire is monitored continuously through the ministry’s national remote sensing centre via satellite.
However, the ministry has requested members of the public to proactively report any fires for swift response at 061 208 7291 during working hours or +264 811 444 878 after hours and weekends.
Communities and farmers are being called upon to organise themselves in small groups and suppress fire with available basic tools.
“The ministry is seeking the cooperation of the public to assist with fighting fires where and when required. The public is called upon to use fire responsibly to avoid destructive fires that cause damages to people’s properties and the environment. The community should carry out slash and burn or crop field clearing in the late afternoon from 18h00 onwards and early morning hours until 09h00,” Muyunda advised. – firstname.lastname@example.org