Cape Town - Shortly after the Noordhoek Wetlands fire, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment’s Working on Fire’s (WoF) High Altitude Team project celebrated a decade of putting out fires in the Western Cape through partnership with Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) and Cape Nature.
Cape Nature conservation operations executive director Ernst Baard said the WoF High Altitude Team assisted conservation partners with the clearing of invasive alien plants in high-altitude, out-of-reach mountain catchment areas where otherwise no clearing was possible through traditional means.
The team consisted of young men and women who were fully-trained rope technicians who possessed specialised skills to descend in inaccessible areas. They tackled over 3 500 hectares and delivered around 5 500 person-days per year.
TMNP Manager Frans Van Rooyen said: “The work done by the team makes an important contribution to securing biodiversity and protecting water resources. Our main mandate as SANParks is conservation management, which is biodiversity management and we want to protect these for future generations.”
The teams have been focusing on areas in Chapman’s Peak, Cecilia Forest, Devil’s Peak, Tokai, Silver Mine, and Orange Cliff.
Van Rooyen said they appreciated the work done in the most difficult to reach areas in the parks and knew the team often put their lives in danger.
Western Cape WoF High Altitude Team ground operation manager Jason De Smidt said the project was conscious of safety and provided high-quality tools and resources for team members when in the field.
“Considering the number of hours we spend on the rope, we have had very few incidents in the past 10 years. We are very safety conscious and the cliffs we are working on are big, like Newlands, where there are cliffs (of) 400m,” said De Smidt.
Meanwhile, SANParks fire manager Philip Prins said approximately 50 hectares of veld was burnt from the Noordhoek Wetlands fire just a few days ago.
The fire was apparently started deliberately by children from the neighbouring Masiphumelele informal settlement.
“SANParks TMNP NCC Environmental Services Newlands Crew, Working on Fire, the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services firefighters, and three helicopters were dispatched to douse the fire behind Blue Water Estate in Noordhoek,” said Prins.
Prins said the fire was contained within a few hours. This was just one instance of how the 10-year successful partnership worked to put out fires in the province.