1 000 fires extinguished over two months – dept
Johannesburg - About 1 000 veld and forest fires had been fought in eight provinces over the past two months, the department of environmental affairs said on Wednesday.
"A total of 4 300 firefighters stationed at 180 bases across eight provinces in South Africa, were deployed to just over a 1 000 fires [vegetation, plantation and fynbos] in June and July this year," the department's Working on Fire (WoF) programme spokesperson Linton Rensburg said in a statement.
The WoF team, which kicked off the year's winter fire season on 1 June, was able to minimise the loss of lives, infrastructure and biodiversity by limiting the country's burn areas to 48 000 hectares.
"Through our partnerships with Fire Protection Associations [FPAs], SA National Parks, various private and public landowners and local municipalities, we will be able to respond quickly, rendering a highly skilled veldfire suppression service which is unparalleled anywhere in South Africa," said Rensburg.
The WoF programme was made up of about 5 000 veld and forest firefighters, stationed at 200 bases across the country, as well as the aerial support teams, made up of spotter planes, helicopters and bomber aircraft.
"We have deployed our WoF ground and aerial teams in areas with the highest fire risk, and they can be dispatched within six minutes of receiving a call for help," said Rensburg.
The Western Cape was the only province that the team was not deployed too.
"This is because the Western Cape experiences high winter rainfalls, whereas the rest of the country remains dry and is more susceptible for veld and forest fires," said Rensburg.
He said South Africa was the only country, worldwide, that had a full-time and professional veld and forest firefighting service.
The WoF, which was in its eleventh year, would end its fire season at the end of November.