55% of fires were started by people, shows latest CapeNature report

''Human behaviour is the main cause of wildfires.'' These remarks were made by the Western Cape’s Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC, Anton Bredell, who visited the Newlands Fire Base Station in Cape Town on Tuesday, to discuss preparations for the coming wildfire season. The MEC was joined by senior firefighting officials.

Wildfire season traditionally runs from November to May in the Western Cape.

According to a Cape Nature report of the 2021/22 financial year, 55% of fires were started by people, either through negligence or on purpose, 26% of fires CapeNature responded to started from within CapeNature protected areas, mostly due to lightning strikes, 14% were started by mechanical means such as powerlines, trains, or equipment such as chainsaws or brush cutters, and 5% through prescribed burning practices.

Bredell said the Western Cape’s  more than 3 000 firefighters, responds to more than 15 000 reports of fire outbreaks each year, and the Department will this year allocate R16 million towards firefighting.

The MEC said he is proud of the excellent cooperation between the different firefighting organisations who work together to manage wildfires.

“We have a Memorandum of Understanding between all municipalities in the province, ensuring that when a wildfire occurs, the closest firefighting unit will immediately make resources available, and can also call on other units for assistance. This means we can very quickly pool resources and focus on the task at hand”.

According to Bredell, the Western Cape Rapid Response Strategy, initiated in 2012, will again be implemented this year. Albeit the aerial support is costly, says the MEC, more than 90% fires were extinguished within the first hour of being reported.

‘’This strategy is based on the premise that expensive aerial support should be made available sooner rather than later. Yes, aerial support is expensive, but it is much cheaper than the damage that might be caused by a runaway wildfire.”

Western Cape Disaster Management Centre, in partnership with the City of Cape Town, Cape Winelands Municipality, and SANParks, will have access to 24 planes and helicopters this season.

“We are preparing for up to 3 aerial missions per day during the hight of the summer,” Bredell said.

Bredell said the public needs to do their part in preventing wildfires.

“Please be responsible with open fires, especially during warm and windy days. Only using designated fireplaces and facilities, and never leave a burning or smouldering fire or candle unattended. Fire safety practices also applies to our homes. This includes reducing the fuel load around buildings, clearing a defensible space around your home, and ensuring water availability in case of an emergency.”



Done By: Mitchum George


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