We are privileged to live in a province that is endowed with one of the most unique and stunningly beautiful vegetation types, Fynbos. We also enjoy an exceptional climate with long hot summers and cool wet winters where veldfires are a natural phenomenon during summer, but too frequent fires have a disastrous effect on the biodiversity and ecosystem services like water production.
The Western Cape is the worst affected veldfire area in the country and one of the main reasons for these frequent fires is unfortunately a lack of knowledge. It is for this reason that CapeNature and the provincial Fire Brigade Services came together to spread the message of fire safety.
Most wildfires are started by people being careless. All fires start small, but when the weather is hot, dry and windy a small fire can quickly become a threat to life and property. Veldfires often start close to the home, and can cause injuries, death and loss of personal belongings. To stop these unnatural veldfires from happening:
- Get rid of hot ash and coal from heating and cooking in a safe place where there is no plant material or rubbish that can catch alight.
- Cover an open fire with sand to smother it.
- Always work in an open, cleared area when working with power tools. Power tools like angle grinders, welders and chainsaws make sparks which can ignite the surrounding veld.
- Make sure that there are no illegal electrical connections connected or near your home and that electrical appliances are correctly wired. Illegal and faulty electrical connections can get hot and start to burn.
- Keep the area around your home clear of material that can burn, such as firewood, kindling and garbage.
- If you see someone playing carelessly with fire, then tell them to stop.
- If you see a veldfire burning, report this immediately.
- Know your emergency numbers to report veldfires.
- Burn rubbish on cooler, wind-still days, as the fire can spread easily on hot and windy days.
- Preferably keep cigarette ends in your vehicle, as opposed to flicking them out your window.
- Ensure that open fires are never left unattended.
- Reprimand those who play with matches or lighters.
We're hoping that more people will be made aware of the dangers of starting fires. Keep in touch with us on our website or Facebook page for more fire savvy tips and information. Contact your closest district emergency number immediately if you see a fire – the sooner we can get to the fire, the more biodiversity and lives we can save.
DISTRICT EMERGENCY NUMBERS FOR REPORTING VELDFIRES
- City of Cape Town 107 or 021 480 7700 on cellphone
- Overberg 028 425 1690
- West Coast 022 433 8700
- Eden 044 805 5071
- Central Karoo 023 414 2603
- Cape Winelands 021 887 4446
FIRE SAFETY RESOURCES AND WEBSITES
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