'Bored children' starting fires a problem - SANParks

2016-12-13 06:20
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More than 120 firefighters are battling a wildfire in the Banhoek Valley. View pictures from the scene here.

Cape Town - Authorities in the Western Cape on Monday expressed their frustration with children entertaining themselves by starting fires during the holiday season.

"We sit with the problem of unsupervised and bored children... especially this time of year. They want to see a little bit of excitement, they want to see a helicopter, they want to see firefighting crews. So what do they do – they start fires," Philip Prins from the South African National Parks (SANparks) said on Monday.

Prins was speaking at a wildfire awareness press briefing held by the Western Cape government at the Newlands fire base.

Referring to the Table Mountain nature reserve, Prins said SANparks had an incredibly difficult job keeping the urban boundary safe.

"The problem [is]... we are managing the park and right on the boundaries of the park we've got informal settlements. If you go down to the Hout Bay area ... we are sitting with Imizamo Yethu, Mandela Park. If you go down south, we [are] sitting with Masiphumelele. If you go further north, areas from Green point, Sea point, Clifton...you talk about the most expensive real-estate in the country," Prins said.

"The most fires originate from human settlements and developments on the boundary of the park."

Province ready for fire season 

Prins said the Table Mountain nature reserve also struggled with the issue of vagrants, who allegedly started up to 70% of fires in the park.

The Western Cape government said that they are ready for the upcoming fire season. 

"We have eight helicopters, four water bombers and eight spotter command and control aircraft that can be deployed to incidents across the province. There are 36 runways available and prepared for these aircraft to utilise in case of need," Western Cape MEC for local government Aton Bredell said.

Up to 2 100km of 20m-wide boundaries in nature reserves have also been cleared by SANparks and CapeNature to keep fires from rapidly spreading.

"We live in a fire-prone province, we have fire dependent vegetation so we will always have fires. But we need to make sure that we put measures in place to control [the fires]," Ettienne du Toit from the province's fire and rescue services said. 

Read more on:    sanparks  |  fires

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