Newsletter 1 of 2018

Dear Members
As we draw closer to the end of the 2017/18 fire season, we all hope and pray for decent winter rains to help us alleviate the drought conditions we are all facing.
However until decent rains do actually fall, we should not drop our vigilance as the veld is still extremely dry and burnable.
This is also a time for reflection on the past season and the following can be said.

  • Sadly four fire fighters lost their lives at wildfire operations. This just stresses the fact that fire suppression is dangerous, and proper training and preparedness is essential to trying to make the operations as safe as possible.
  • Once again large area`s burnt within the Cape Winelands and a number of structures and crops, were either destroyed or damaged.

What to do

  • All our members now need to start planning for the next fire season, which will probably be here in a few months again.
  • Plan to have staff and workers properly trained and have the correct PPE.
  • Plan to ensure you have adequate tools and equipment that is in good working condition.
  • Plan to make and/or maintain firebreaks on your property before the next fire season.
  • Sign the fire break agreements between yourselves and your immediate neighbours.
  • Plan to reduce unwanted fuel loads during the winter months.
  • Ensure that access to your properties is adequate for large fire fighting vehicles.
  • Fire-scape your gardens and clear around buildings, especially if there is a chance fire could reach these structures.

Together we can all make a difference, if we all commit to each doing our bit, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

Report ALL veld fires to Cape Winelands District Fire Services on 0218874446

WFPA in action at the RDM Chemical Spill
On the morning of 04 January 2018 the Rhein-Metall Denel Munition plant at Kranzkop near Wellington reported an Oleum gas leak to which Cape Winelands District Fire Services and Hazmat Units responded.

Bernard Wooding from Elandsberg Farms and FPA ward leader for the Agter-Groenberg area initiated the use of the FPA WhatsApp groups for that area as a communication tool between landowners and to relay information from the Incident Command.

The Winelands Fire Protection Association staff a few hours later fell in together with pernonell from Cape Winelands District Municipality, Western Cape Government and Drakenstein Local Municipality to form the Incident Management Team. The WFPA’s maps of its member farms in the area proved a great help here. The FPA WhasApp groups were now used as the official communication link between evacuating landowners and the IMT with updates being posted from landowners on who had evacuated and form the IC the official updates.

Meanwhile Kuba Miszewski (Drakenstein FMU leader) took the initiative to report to the evacuation centre at the Wellington Town Hall and offer help. With large numbers of farm workers and their families waiting in the sun and 39 degree heat to be processed, Kuba put a message out to the Klein Drakenstein ward to assist. Within 15 minutes they had 6 people on site handing out cups of water. With the possibility of a larger evacuation area and that evacuees may be spending the night at the town hall, the decision was made to arrange a meal for all. They tapped into the Wellington Muslim Community who have people on call to produce a meal, and one and a half hours later there were pots of a lentil/soya stew and sandwiches being dished up. Kuba also entertained the children by teaching them the song for the 10177 emergency number.

By 18h00 the area was declared safe and all evacuees returned to their homes.

The WFPA would again like to thank all its members that assisted that day.

Lessons Learnt from Simonsberg Fires
After two fires on the Simonsberg near Stellenbosch at the beginning of February that landowners held a debrief after. The outcomes of the meeting are the following list of lessons learnt:

  1. Mop-up and monitoring to prevent flare-ups are the responsibility of the landowner
    1. Landowners therefore need to have resources at hand for this. Make a plan for this especially during picking season
    2. Mop-up is not just watching, it is creating a 10m break around perimeter
    3. Flare-ups of unnoticed spot fires can occur up to a week later
  2. Access and info on where to go and how to get there
    1. post someone at entrance to direct resources
    2. clear roads and make necessary access gates for firefighting
    3. have maps of roads, gates, filling points, dead ends, etc
    4. use the opportunity of Fire Services doing inspection for burn permits to introduce yourself and show them the layout of your farm (gates, roads, fire breaks, filling points, high risk areas)
  3. IC must be in control and all resources must report to IC
  4. Refill fire trucks on the fireline to keep the experienced firefighters working where you need them instead of taking over while they drive off to refill
  5. PPE!! it takes 5 minutes extra to get properly dressed
  6. Equipment
    1. Equip spray carts with long hoses (with geka coupling) and nozzles
    2. Fire trailers did not work well in terrain. Need big bakkies that can turn more easily.
    3. Need to look after fire trailers! Petrol and water need to be filled up after each use
  7. Helicopters do not put out fires!! ground teams need to put in brunt of the work
  8. Train staff in Basic Wildland Firefighting
  9. Manage fuel loads
    1. divide blocks of dense alien vegetation up with roads
    2. keep stacks away from roads
    3. burn all stacks in winter
  10. Divide ward into groups of 5 farms with a trained coordinator
    1. set up standby fire teams, especially in picking season (2 persons per farm)
  11. A handbook on what to do when there is a fire on your property
    1. FPA has a list already on website (http://winelandsfpa.co.za/at-a-fire/). Will make a printer friendly version for next fire season
  12. Comply with the ACT!!
  13. Get neighbours to join FPA
New Burn Permit Application Form
To decrease our administration load and with that delayed responses to emails, we have now got an online application form for burn permits (a first in the Western Cape!).

For all burn permits from now on please go onto our website for the link to the form.
The page is www.winelandsfpa.co.za/burn-permit/

The procedure after submitting the application will remain the same, with Cape Winelands Fire Services coming ut to inspect the burn sites and issuing the permit.

Please only apply once your site is ready for inspection.
Please apply at least 7 working days before you need the permit to ensure you will have it in time for your burn. If no inspection has been arranged within this time please contact Henrietta Brock on 0712562668.

Husqvarna backpack blower demonstration
On Monday 26 March Husqvarna hosted a Demonstration for backpack blowers together with Limitless Fire (a equipment supplier and CWDM fire contract team) and Louis van Dyk (training provider for WFPA). This has come after a successful 2 year trial by Limitless Fire using Husqvarna backpack blowers as a firefighting tool.
Various role players and FPA leaders were invited to this demonstration. The blowers effectiveness was impressive with 1 blower doing the work of up to 8 person with rake-hoes and beaters. While they will never replace the traditional hand tools, the blowers are definitely a great tool in the toolbox for wildfire suppression and controlled burning operations.
Below some pictures form the day and Husqvarna’s promotional video for the blowers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOCLcp3vIVI&feature=share
Training Courses 2018
We are still confirming details with the trainers and will send out an email in the next few weeks with all the details.

The courses offered this year will be:

  1. Basic firefighting for veld and forest fires (2days)
  2. Basic firefighting for veld and forest fires refresher (1day)
  3. Fireboss (3days)
  4. Planning controlled burns (3days)

The set dates for the courses will most likely be from 23 July till end of August.

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