The Working on Fire – Kishugu Joint Venture, in partnership with Provincial Disaster Management and the Cape Winelands District Municipality, officially launched its annual Fire Awareness Campaign in Stellenbosch on Friday, October 13, 2023. This initiative marks a proactive effort to prepare for the upcoming busy fire season and aims to raise awareness about the importance of fire prevention and safety within communities and schools in fire-prone areas and in the urban interface of the Western Cape.
The decision to launch the campaign in the Cape Winelands Region is a direct response to the alarming number of fires recorded in this area during the previous summer fire season. The campaign intends to empower local communities to take preventative measures against wildfires through a series of educational activities and workshops.
In his keynote address, Etienne du Toit, of the Western Government, emphasized the need to distinguish between “good fires” and “bad fires” that cause damage and fatalities. He stressed that the campaign’s central message is that “Fire is Everyone’s Fight,” highlighting the importance of community involvement in fire prevention.
Mr. Du Toit further explained that the Western Government has developed various fire safety programmes with messages targeting both children and adults. Fatalities tend to occur predominantly among males aged 18 to 35, who are at higher risk. He said due to socio-economic conditions many people in South Africa live in poverty and rely on open flames and illegal connections for cooking, which makes them particularly vulnerable. The awareness programmes aim to address these specific challenges.
Working on Fire’s community fire awareness officer, Rayganah Rhoda, emphasized the collaborative nature of the campaign, bringing together all stakeholders and entities committed to spreading fire awareness messages in communities and schools. The core message, according to Rhoda, is that “fire is everyone’s fight.” The campaign encourages communities to report fires promptly to reduce response times and educate community members, particularly children, on safe evacuation procedures during a fire.
The Fire Awareness Campaign launch marks the beginning of an extensive effort to create a fire-resilient Western Cape. By promoting the message that “Fire is Everyone’s Fight,” the organizers hope to foster a sense of shared responsibility and community action against wildfires. The upcoming activities, including workshops and community outreach programs, are designed to equip residents with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves and their communities from the devastating effects of fires.
The organisations that were part of the launch included Cape Nature, Cape Winelands Fire Protection Associations, Local Municipalities in the Cape Winelands, Volunteer Wildfire Services, and many more.