WATCH: US firefighters joins SA to fight Cape fires this season
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.
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.@SISONKE_MD