Cape Town - Western Cape Disaster Management has already provided support in 14 major wildfires and dozens of smaller fires at a cost of R10 million on firefighting this summer.
This was revealed on Thursday by Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell who said he had received a status report from the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre on the province’s current fire season.
“The province works closely with municipalities, who also contribute accordingly towards these operations. Costs include the operation of 24 aerial units, ranging from spotter planes, at R4 000/hour, to the large Black Hawk helicopter, at a cost of R78 000/hour,” Bredell said.
Bredell said the fires of this past month showed how effective it was deploying aerial resources, sooner rather than later. Even though it was more costly, it often prevented small fires from growing into runaway wildfires which could ultimately result in serious damage to property and loss of life.
The report showed that the raging Kleinmond fire was the most prominent fire thus far, with 5 372 hectares of land being affected, damage to 10 hectares of commercial fynbos and damage to farm fences.
Fortunately there have not been any human casualties or extensive damage to infrastructure up to now.
“What many people do not realise is that there are often several fires that need attending to simultaneously. During the Kleinmond operation, there were also nine other fires that needed active intervention from fire services,” said Bredell.
During the week of January 17 to 23, Bredell said 13 major wildfires and several smaller wildfires were reported in local and district municipalities throughout the province.
“We have over the past 10 years developed a system where, with the coordination of the Provincial Disaster Management Centre, different fire fighting units can quickly be coordinated into a dedicated and synchronised firefighting unit,” said Bredell.
This allowed them to activate teams closest to the fire, while also allocating and sending support from other areas as needed.
Bredell said with continued hot summer weather expected over the next few months, it was essential that the public remained vigilant and responsible with open fires and immediately reported any fire sightings to the nearest local authority.