Wildfires rage in Western Cape

2012-01-19 11:44

Fire fighters in the Southern Cape are battling a wildfire along a 20km fireline, Working on Fire (Wof) said.

“This fire is burning in fynbos and is out of control,” spokesperson Leanne McKrill said.

Helicopters fitted with Bambi-buckets were waiting for mist to clear this morning to help.

In Swellendam, a fire had been burning for eight days and WoF was bringing in teams from other parts of the province to relieve its firefighters, McKrill said.

Smaller wildfires were being reported across the province, which is currently at the peak of its annual wildfire season.

High winds, hot weather and little rainfall make the summer months in the Western Cape prone to runaway veld and forest fires.

The Western Cape wildfire season runs from December 1 to April 30.

The northern parts of South Africa have a winter wildfire season in the dry, cold months.

Manuel Chikwanda, from insurance company Lion of Africa, said the fires in the Western Cape raised major concerns over the readiness of businesses and landowners to deal with unexpected fire.

He warned landowners and businesses to adhere to fire legislation or risk forfeiting their cover in the event of fire damage.

“The cost of non-compliance far exceeds the cost of compliance when you consider the loss of profits, operational delays and reputational damage that occurs when a business is incapacitated due to an extreme event such as fire.”

Businesses were not saving money by ignoring fire safety requirements, he said.

South Africa has updated wildfire legislation that requires all landowners to ensure their properties are clear of alien vegetation and protected from wildfires by fire-breaks.

In high-risk wildfire areas, landowners are required to join Fire Protection Associations which co-ordinate measures to prevent wildfire and work with emergency services in a disaster.

This year, the City of Cape Town has on standby a fleet of bomber and spotter planes and helicopters fitted with Bambi-buckets to fight fires on the urban fringe and in national parks surrounding the city.

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