The Fire Services, landowners and the communities are ready for this fire season in the Overberg.
So says Reinard Geldenhuys, Fire Protection Officer of the Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association (goFPA) and the Overberg District Municipality’s Chief Fire Officer. The fire season officially started on 1 December for the Western Cape.
“However, fires never listen, and they’ve started prematurely this year,” Geldenhuys says. Since November, the Overberg district has already experienced four large fires. The wildfires have affected Grabouw, Botriver, Hermanus and Villiersdorp.
Veld-fire behaviour is ‘changing’
He says, “While we don’t have a crystal ball, we do get a lot of information from the SA Weather Service regarding long-term forecasts. We also look at veld age and other factors, and that gives us a good idea of what to expect. The information we’re getting now is that we are to expect below-average rainfall and above-average heat for the next two to three months. In fact, we’re already seeing a difference in veldfire behaviour in these early fires. As the veld dries even more, and with a little bit of wind added, we could be in for a busy fire season.”
The flood damage in mountainous areas will also have negative impacts. “Many of the roads have washed away and it has been impossible to fix them before the fire season. This will make access to these fires challenging, especially in some of the high-risk areas.”
Resources in place in the Overberg
The Overberg district and partners are taking steps to reduce threats. Already two helicopters and a spotter plane have been stationed in Bredasdorp for fire season. Louise Wessels, Manager of the goFPA says that landowners should speak to their insurers so long. “Check that your insurance is in place. You may wish to include ‘fire suppression insurance’ as well as ‘risk of spread insurance’. Chat to your insurance broker, to understand the options and costs, to prevent the spread of- and/or to protect your property from a wildfire.”
Geldenhuys says, “With our resources and support facilities in place, we’ve done considerable preparation. Our fire personnel are up to date with the latest training and information, and our vehicles and aerial resources are ready and in place. So, from here we will do whatever we have to this fire season to keep the Overberg safe.”
Early and accurate reporting is vital
According to Geldenhuys, reporting a fire immediately and providing the Fire Services with accurate information is vital. “Having the correct information at hand allows us to dispatch the needed resources and get them on scene as quickly as possible. When reporting a fire, we ask that you provide us with an exact location (a pin drop works best) and the best-known route to the fire. Other information like what is burning, the immediate risks, how quickly it is spreading, how large the fire is, and in what direction it is moving, helps us strategise even while we are still en route.”
If you see a smoke column or open flames, please report it immediately. The Overberg District Fire Services control room can be reached at 028 425 1690. The Overstrand Fire Service control room number is 028 312 2400. Finally, the goFPA duty phone number is 063 690 7899.