Picture: Pexels

Johannesburg - The department of environmental affair's Working on Fire programme has appealed to Gauteng landowners to create fire breaks as the winter fire season was now official open.

According to the National Veld and Forest Act of 1998, the winter fire season runs from 1 June each year.

WoF spokesperson in Gauteng, Parapara Makgahlela, said: “Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire has 17 bases with 348 firefighters across Gauteng Province on standby to assist communities, landowners and farmers to suppress veld fires and to create fire breaks during this winter fire season.

“Gauteng recorded 447 fires and 102 546 of hectares of land burned in the last fire season. Working on Fire has vehicle resources in place, one fire truck, five truck buses, five strike units and six bakkie to operate during the fire season."

Landowners were encouraged to form Fire Protection Associations to manage fire trends in their areas.

“Landowners need to get into contact with us so that we can assist with the development of clear integrated fire management services, which includes amongst others, prescribed burning, fuel load reduction, community fire awareness, early detection and fire suppression plans,” said Makgahlela.

Makgahlela said communities need to be more vigilant during this fires season and not to start unnecessary fires, particularly during dry days this winter. People were also asked to remove unnecessary rubble on their properties which can pose a serious fire risk and houses next to grasslands need to ensure that there was sufficient fire breaks between their properties and these grasslands.

“We do expect a very difficult winter fire season but we firmly believe that through our partnerships with Provincial Disaster Management Centres, Fire Protection Associations, SANParks, various private and public landowners and local municipalities, we will be able to respond quickly in rendering a highly skilled veld fire suppression service which is unparalleled anywhere in the country,” said Makgahlela.

Makgahlela said they were also urging communities to cut down overhanging tree branches close to their properties and also to clean their gutters as the leaves that end up in these gutters also can pose a fire risk. People must also ensure that they have the contact details of their local fire authorities at hand should there be a fire emergency.

African News Agency/ANA