13 January 2017

South Africa: Environmental Affairs On Deployment of Firefighters to Contain Cape Fires

Photo: VWS Wildfires
Firefighters battle the wildfire on Signal Hill in Cape Town.
press release

Over 1000 firefighters from the Department Of Environmental Affairs' working on fire programme deployed to contain Cape fires

A contingent of firefighters from the Department of Environmental Affairs' Working on Fire (WoF) programme are playing an instrumental role in assisting CapeNature and disaster management officials in containing the fires currently raging across various parts of the Western Cape.

The fire crews, bolstered by aerial support, have been busy at multiple fires in Somerset West, Simons town, Tulbagh and Grabouw in the Western Cape.

Over 1000 firefighters have been deployed - with some mobilised from as far afield as bases in the Eastern Cape and Free State.

They are being supported by a Working on Fire spotter plane, fixed wing air tractor bomber and a helicopter.

Working on Fire (WoF) falls under the Department's Environmental Programmes and is implemented through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Unemployed young men and women are trained in various fire management and suppression skills including but not limited to firefighters, drivers, brush cutters, dispatchers, helicopter safety leaders and environmental educators.

The status of the current fires and Working on Fire deployments are as follows:

Witzenberg

This fire that started on 10th January 2017, has had close to 40 firefighters from WoF assisting CapeNature and Cape Town Disaster Management in an ongoing effort to contain the fire.

Somerset West

This fire has been largely contained and according to the Cape Peninsula Fire Protection Association, the fire in the Sneeuberg Mountain is under control and ground teams will begin with mop-up operations in the area.

Since the start of the fire season (1 December 2016) ground and aerial support have been instrumental in the suppression of 57 fires and limited the areas burnt by 95 959.3 hectares throughout the Western Cape. Firefighting aircraft have racked up 432.3 flying hours.

For January 2017 alone, ground and aerial support were instrumental in the suppression of 39 fires and limited the areas burnt by an impressive 26 492 hectares throughout the Western Cape.

Firefighting aircraft racked up 285.2 flying hours.

The Department of Environmental Affairs through its website and social media pages, will be providing regular and timely updates on the work being done by Working on Fire during the current fire season.

Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs

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