Post Fire Season: Reflecting on a Challenging Season

The Cape Winelands District Municipality’s (CWDMs) Fire Services hosted a post-fire season event on 31 May 2024. This gathering provided an opportunity for partners, role players, and service providers, including Leading Edge (aerial resources), CapeNature, the Western Cape Government, Winelands Fire Protection Association (FPA), CWDM Fire Services, and their Communications unit, to share statistics, highlights, challenges, and lessons learned from the 2023/2024 fire season.

During the period 1 July 2023 to 30 April 30, 2024, a total of 1,435 fires were reported to the CWDM’s control room. Most veld fire ignitions occurred within the boundaries of Stellenbosch and Drakenstein, accounting for 69% of all calls. The frequency of veld fires peaked from October 2023 to April 2024.

The most demanding period occurred between 22 January and 15 February 2024, during which time, the district suffered multiple major fires simultaneously. These, include but are not limited to the massive Kluitjieskraal and Brandvlei fires. Extreme weather conditions, high temperatures and strong winds, combined with the excessive fuel load provided by aged natural and alien vegetation, made suppression operations exceptionally challenging.

Collaboration among interagency partners and role players was crucial in effectively managing the high number of fire incidents. “By pooling our resources and efforts in a co-ordinated manner we were able to deal with fire incidents effectively and efficiently and achieve our goals of saving lives, property, the environment, and livelihoods.” explained Wayne Josias, CWDM Fire Chief.

Despite property damage to vineyards, orchards, water infrastructure, and fences, there were no civilian or firefighter casualties.

“From the firefighters, operational and administrative, the ground teams to the pilots, all displayed tremendous dedication, commitment and skill during this past season. Was it not for their exceptional work, Cape Winelands would have experienced far greater damage and losses of property and possibly lives.” the Executive Mayor, Ald (Dr) Elna von Schlicht proclaimed during her address.

As we transition from fire season to the post-season period, Cape Nature and CWDM Fire Services will focus on understanding veld biodiversity and the impact of climate change on our ecosystem. The Winelands Fire Protection Agency (FPA) will assist landowners in maintaining fire breaks, reducing excessive fuel loads around structures, and clearing vegetation.

While winter approaches, vigilance remains essential due to the predicted dry weather. If you encounter a veld fire, please report it to 021 887 4446.

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