14 500 wildfires tackled in Western Cape in past year

Forty-four people have died in various fires across the Western Cape since October 2018, the province's MEC for local government and environmental affairs, Anton Bredell, said on Wednesday.

"These occurred both in urban and rural settings and include children, adults, firefighters and a helicopter pilot," said Bredell.

"We express our deepest condolences to the loved ones and friends of those who lost their lives. One death is one too many."

Bredell said that an estimated 14 500 wildfires were recorded across the province in the year to end March.

This is less than the previous fire season estimate of 17 000 fires. 

READ: Death toll in Southern Cape fires rises to 8, as evacuations continue

Due to advances in firefighting and prevention techniques, 95% of wildfires were apparently brought under control within the first hour of being reported.

Although there were fewer wildfires, this season's fires were more fierce, with fire lines of up to 180km during the Outeniqua fires of 2018.

The department has also noticed that one helicopter is no longer sufficient. Since 2012, it upped its firefighting aerial support from eight to 26 firefighting aircraft, operating across 36 runways.

News24 has reported that various organisations, such as Working on Fire and regional fire protection associations, provide assistance to municipal services.

READ: Pilot who died in crash came back from leave to help fight Garden Route fire

Bredell said 10 000 smoke alarms have been fitted in informal settlements and, so far, no fire deaths have been recorded in those project areas.

He thanked emergency responders, firefighting partners and the province's disaster management centre.

"The job is often hazardous and they perform it selflessly. We pay sincere respect to them and all their colleagues, as well as their families who support them directly," he said.

The City of Cape Town stated on March 30, that its services had responded to 13 483 incidents. Bredell's spokesperson, James Brent-Styan, said these figures were included in the total estimate for the province, with the metro spreading as far afield as Gordon's Bay and Atlantis.

In the meantime, Working on Fire posted on Facebook that they were doing a controlled burn in the Overstrand and Overberg region on Wednesday and training of new firefighters continues.

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