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Firefighters gearing up for 2018 winter fires

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Minister lauds work of firefighters 

April 04, 2018

Staff Reporter

Gauteng, South Africa: Minister of Environmental Affairs , Edna Molewa has lauded the Working on Fire firefighters for their foresight and hard work in preparing for the fire season, which usually starts in June.

“These firefighters are professionally trained to suppress veld and forest fires, and have been deployed throughout the country to reduce the personal and economic harm caused by unwanted wildfires,” Molewa said.

The Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire firefighters have been hard at work the last few months preparing for the 2018 winter fire season.

The department said in a statement: “Just over 4 000 firefighters stationed at 160 bases throughout South Africa will be ready for the start of the winter fire season which could last up to the end of November this year.” 

Yellow Card Training Camps will be undertaken during April to ensure all firefighters are fit and ready to be on active duty during the upcoming fire season.

As a result of the current drought being experienced throughout the country, a very difficult winter fire season is expected.

Working on Fire has established a national deployment team which can be dispatched to anywhere in the country to assist farmers and land owners with fire suppression efforts.

Molewa urged landowners to work with Working on Fire to develop clear integrated fire management services, including prescribed burning, fuel load reduction, community fire awareness, early detection and fire suppression plans, among others.

“The Working on Fire team will also launch the Community Fire Awareness Campaigns throughout the country in April and these campaigns will be aimed at teaching communities how to be fire safe in order to prevent unwanted veld and forest fires and to raise awareness of the risk of veld and forest fires, while empowering those at risk to take responsibility to reduce the danger and impact of fires in their communities.

“Working on Fire will do presentations that will highlight the threat of fires and how to reduce fire risks in communities. Firefighters will demonstrate how to construct fire breaks and do fuel reduction which helps eliminate fire spread in case of a fire,” read the statement.

Molewa reiterated the importance of adapting to climate change, referring to recent natural disasters such as the droughts, fires and floods.

“We also urge communities to be more vigilant during this fire season and not to start unnecessary fires, particularly during dry days this winter,” added Molewa.
Communities should also take extra care by removing unnecessary rubble on their property which can pose a serious fire risk, cut down overhanging tree branches and clean their gutters as the leaves can pose a fire risk.

“Houses next to grasslands need to ensure that there is sufficient fire breaks between their properties and these grasslands.

“For safety precautions, members of the community should ensure that they have the contact details of their local fire authorities at hand should there be a fire emergency,” the department said.