Firefighters from the Table Mountain National Park, Working on Fire and New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing demonstrated their skills at the Newlands Forest base on Wednesday. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - In a bid to foster relationships aimed at increasing feet on the ground for the ever-changing fire season in the Western Cape, Table Mountain National Park has partnered with the US Embassy to form part of an inter-agency cross-pollination of resources between the South African fire fraternity and the embassy.

Several agencies, including SANParks’ Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), Western Cape Disaster Management, the SANDF, Working on Fire, the Cape Peninsula Fire Protection Association and additional resources and training by the US 109th Air Wing Guard officials, are coming together this summer season as the 2019/20 wildfire season kicks off.

To showcase some of the resources available, on Wednesday at Newlands Forest helipad the teams highlighted the interaction between ground and aerial firefighting teams and demonstrated how an integrated response was needed when dealing with a wildfire, especially in its initial stages.

Virginia Blaser, consul general at the US Consulate, said they were grateful to the US military and New York National Guard who had the vision and volunteered to be a part of the programme.

Blaser said they volunteered to not only teach their skills and share their best practices, but to learn from amazing South African firefighters and crews.

“Whether they are New Yorkers or Capetonians, these are the people who fight our fires, keep us safe and protect our lives, in South Africa, the US and beyond. This is the group that symbolises us working together, bravely and heroically,” Blaser said.

Pictured left to right is Philip Prins, Fire Management Table Mountain, Alvin Phillips, bilateral affairs officer at the US Embassy’s Office of Defence Co-operation and Virginia Blazer, US Consulate general Cape Town. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Several agencies, along with a US Embassy partnership, are coming together this summer season as the 2019/20 wildfire season kicks off. Video: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus
Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

TMNP fire manager Philip Prins said with the realities of climate change becoming more apparent, and residential fire losses associated with wildland fires gaining global and national attention, “the need to create fire-resilient communities, both human and natural, is becoming essential”.

Prins said climate change was a major driver of the changes seen across landscapes resulting in an increase in fire frequency and intensity.

He said a growing combination of elements such as widespread drought, the presence of alien invasive species, poorly managed and neglected properties and an increasing number of homes being built in the Wildland Urban Interface contributed to the loss of life, property and natural resources.

“TMNP is surrounded by vulnerable developments and wildfires will undoubtedly present a risk to homes in, or next to, such areas,” Prins said.

Virginia Blazer, Cape Town US Consulate general, greets the firefighters. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Several agencies, along with a US Embassy partnership, are coming together this summer season as the 2019/20 wildfire season kicks off. Video: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus
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