The Perpetual Fire Season
With an alarming 50 fires recorded since April this year, it appears as if the Western Cape fire season has never stopped.
Tony Marshall, CapeNature’s Programme Manager: Integrated Catchment Management says this is an unusual occurrence. “Traditionally, winter is not part of the fire season.” He adds “Yet, we’ve seen this change in pattern with many of the fires occurring outside of the summer season from 1 April until now. In comparison to other provinces, the fires in the Cape are generally much more intense and burn for longer.”
Eleven of the fires have been caused by lightning and the rest by unknown potential malicious negligence, which Marshall says are caused by people. Majority of the lightning was experienced in the Southern Cape region with a total of 20 fires since 1st November.
While these fires were ablaze in the Southern Cape, 10 of which were on CapeNature land, firefighters were simultaneously working hard to douse a number of other fires across the peninsula.
These fires include the Sir Lowry’s Pass fire and the Gordon’s Bay fire, which stretched from the N2 in Gordon’s Bay to Steenbras Dam, in the direction of Rooi Els and raged for two consecutive days. The City of Cape Town reported that the fire, fanned by very strong winds, destroyed four houses and an animal shelter. The power supply to both Gordon’s Bay and Sir Lowry’s Village was disrupted overnight as a result of carbon build on the transmission lines. Some reports indicate the damage caused by the fire in the mountains above Gordon’s Bay is around R38 million with the final total set to be much higher.
Two weeks into the fire season, mop up operations were taking place at nine different hotspots. Priority areas reported on included Molen river, Kubuku and De Vlught. Some of these mop up operations are still being monitored to avoid a flare up in the southern cape as the drought has resulted in these roots being significantly dry.
To date only one injury related to fires has been reported. It was a firefighter with a sprained ankle sustained during the Sir Lowry’s Pass fires.
It is not too late to turn this fire season around. Locals and visitors are encouraged to brush up on their safety knowledge and report all fires (irrespective of how small it may seem) to the local municipality or authorities immediately. Marshall says “Fire is everyone’s fight and partnerships are key to fighting veldfires. CapeNature, along with other conservation authorities like Provincial Government and fire protection agencies, work together to ensure we have a safe fire season. Everyone, locals and visitors, have an interest in ensuring that the fires are properly managed and only made in designated places where the chances of causing a devastating wildfire is reduced substantially.”