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Western Cape firefighters get cash boost as to tackle blazes during fire season

Western Cape firefighters line up and are ready to tackle blazes. Local government injects millions towards fighting fires. Picture: File

Western Cape firefighters line up and are ready to tackle blazes. Local government injects millions towards fighting fires. Picture: File

Published Jan 9, 2022

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The Western Cape government claims to have spent more R125 million in support of municipalities in the past 11 years to bolster firefighting efforts during the province’s busy fire season.

The province’s annual fire season, which is from December until April, began with numerous fire incidents in the Cape Town metro, as well as parts of the rural districts.

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This week Western Cape Premier Alan Winde was briefed by officials from the provincial Disaster Management Centre on plans in place to combat fires.

Winde said the briefing detailed the province’s extensive preparations in place to ensure that the Western Cape remains on the front foot in preventing fires at government facilities.

According to Winde, the province has provided aerial support since 2011 to the tune of R125m through its annual integrated wildfire support programme, which includes specialised ground support teams to protect residents affected by fires.

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In addition to this, R41.1m was provided for 60 fire-fighting vehicles from 2016 to date, while Stellenbosch municipality received R3m for an aerial fire truck.

The provincial government said fire and rescue training programmes were being provided to firefighters.

“This has ensured that 90% of municipal firefighters outside of the metro have received training in mandatory fire qualification since 2016. Training was also provided to a total of 105 members in specialist Hazardous Materials Response in 2021 and 20 technical rescuers are being trained a year,” said Winde.

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In December, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s Working on Fire (WoF) programme added 25 firefighters from the Free State to bolster their resources for the fire season. In previous years, five teams of 100 firefighters from across the country, were placed on standby to combat fires in the Western Cape.

Firefighters have had their hands full in the fire season. Picture: Thobeka Ndabula

WoF spokesperson Limakatso Khalianyane, said they had assisted with containing 17 fires since the beginning of the fire season.

“Of those, 11 were reported in the Overberg Region. It was also the busiest region in the previous year,” she said.

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“Our aerial resources have flown for 27 hours. Our resources were assisting Table Mountain, Overberg District Municipality, West Coast District Municipality, Cape Winelands, as well as the City of Cape Town.”

According to the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services, as many as 900 professional firefighters had been on duty since December.

Spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said the firefighters worked on a three-shift rotational system, where between 190 and 230 firefighters are on duty during every 24-hour period, 365 days of the year. They were based at 32 fire stations spread across the city.

“In addition, the service has acquired aerial support in the form of two helicopters and a spotter plane. It is further supported by seasonal firefighters, as well as an additional 22 firefighters who recently graduated after completing their training,” he said.

The City said they invested in reinforcements for the expected increase, particularly, vegetation fires between December and April.

Fire crews in the rural districts were also busy with this week attending to wildfires.

The Garden Route District Municipality’s fire services joined forces with the George crew to extinguish what was labelled a potentially high-risk fire on the western hill of the Langvlei near Kleinkrantz on Monday.

Days later, a fire in Idas Valley in Stellenbosch was quickly extinguished due to the rapid response of fire services and WoF on Thursday.

By Thursday night crews from the Overstrand were called to respond to a blaze that broke out at Die Plaat near Stanford in a hard to access part. The blaze was contained in the early hours of Friday.

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