Cape Town - In the wake of the massive fire that tore through the Karwyderskraal, Arabella, Rooisand, Highlands and Heuningkloof areas last week, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs (DFFE) Barbara Creecy visited Kleinmond to thank more than 300 firefighters who helped to douse the flames.
Although no one was killed, the fire – which lasted six days – destroyed 5 417 hectares of vegetation and burnt one structure.
Working On Fire (WOF) worked with teams from the Overberg District Municipality, Overstrand Municipality, Provincial Disaster Management, Cape Nature, and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to protect lives, property and infrastructure.
Creecy said the WOF teams played an integral role in bringing the fire under control as numerous air and ground resources were deployed.
“The aerial resources in last week’s fire flew some 83 hours and made 590 water drops – the equivalent of 1 014 million litres of water – to help douse these fires,” she said.
Grabouw Forestry Support Programme (FSP) firefighter Ganya Thuto said this was the biggest fire the organisation had fought, and it attacked it aggressively until it was contained.
Overberg Fire Chief Reinard Geldenhuys also commended the WOF teams.
Creecy said although investigations were still under way into the cause of the blaze, indications were that it originated in the department’s pine plantation in the Kleinmond area.
“The Fire Protection Association is compiling a fire report regarding the facts pertaining to the source of the fire. We have also enlisted the services of SANParks since they have internal capabilities to undertake an assessment of this nature,” she said.
As the loss of vegetation continued throughout the six days, municipalities, residents and conservation teams worked hard to try to save the wildlife.
Overstrand Municipality mayor Annelie Rabie said: “Our environmental staff and a team of volunteers are continuously looking for tortoises, chameleons, lizards, skunks and snakes to release them as soon as it is safe for them to return to their natural habitat.”
To combat the expected wildfires due to the continued heat waves during fire season, the minister urged private landowners to take responsibility for the clearing of highly flammable alien vegetation on their property.
She said the department was amending legislation to require that municipalities, private landowners and other stakeholders in wildfire-risk areas become members of local Fire Protection Associations.