Newsletter March 2020

We as the Winelands FPA had an eventful start of the new year. We are currently in our fire season and due to that, we aim to only permit control burn in the event if it falls under the specification of a special burn permit. We understand and acknowledge that certain burns cannot wait. Special burn permits will be allowed in the following cases: 

  • Dry grass and vleilands (November – 20 December) 
  • Preparing of cultivated lands for planting (January – April) 
  • Fynbos (March – April)

No burning even with a valid permit will be allowed on the days when the fire index forecast is orange (very dangerous)  or red (extremely dangerous). This is to ensure everyone’s safety and to minimize the risk of uncontrolled veld fires within the Winelands District. Do take note that it may take up to seven working days for a burn permit application to be processed and inspection to be completed by a fire officer of the Winelands Fire Service. You are then only allowed to carry out the controlled burn if the permit is approved by a die fire officer. You can apply for a burn permit on our website www.winelandsfps.co.za or using this link https://winelandsfpa.co.za/burn-permit-application/.

The following article is written by the Cape Winelands District Municipality regarding burn permits, you would benefit a lot by reading it: A whiff of smoke in the crisp, cold autumn air

Ask any citizen who grew up the rural areas of the Cape Winelands to describe early autumn mornings and inevitably someone will mention the crisp, clear air, lightly tinged with the smell of leaves and wet ground burning. This is the aroma of autumn. It signals the end of harvest and the beginning of the cleansing season before winter, the season of rest.

The fires you might see burning are actually controlled fires, which are planned and coordinated to prepare for the fire season to come. The Winelands Fire Protection Association (WFPA), managed by Dale Nortjie, is actively involved in coordinating and implementing integrated fire management within the Cape Winelands District.

Some of the activities of the WFPA include, but are not limited to, the identification of high-risk areas,  mapping and implementing the construction and maintenance of strategic and tactical fire breaks, alien vegetation clearing, fuel load reduction and other associated operations.  This is undertaken through engagements with all the relevant role-players such as the CWDM Fire Services, WFPA members (landowners), CapeNature, conservancies and other bodies such as Land Care and its implementing agents CASIDRA (Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas).

The term ‘fuel load’ refers to the amount of vegetation that will ignite if exposed to fire – the more fuel, the bigger and more devastating the fire.

The WFPA is an ideal platform from which to coordinate these fire prevention exercises to ensure that there is no over-lapping of projects and, in so doing, the various related organisations aim to prevent wasting scarce resources and funding.

Controlled burning operations are implemented, inter alia, to reduce unwanted fuel load, which refers to vegetative residue after either alien plant clearing operations or after landowners have removed old vineyards or orchards and annual crop residue.

To this end the WFPA coordinates the issuing of burn permits via the CWDM Fire Services. As per the local municipality by-laws, no burning may take place without a valid permit. Once a request for a permit is submitted, an inspection of the burn site will be carried out by an officer of the CWDM Fire Services and, if satisfied that the area is safe, will issue the permit.

The WFPA also coordinates actual burning operations, the majority of which are scheduled through the winter months, as this is the lowest fire danger period. The cooler weather and rainfall make the conditions ideal for these operations to take place safely. However, in the case of biodiversity, controlled burns are scheduled for the summer months. This is the ‘natural’ time when fires would occur, as strikes of lightning ignite fires in the natural vegetation areas. Fynbos and most other indigenous veld vegetation are fire-driven ecologies and as such require fire to regenerate and propagate the diversity of species. These burns are always planned well in advance and the necessary resources and expertise are present during planning and actual operations.

Permits can be applied for online via the WFPA website on www.winelandsfpa.co.za. There is no charge for members of the WFPA, but non-members will pay an administrative fee of R250,00 per permit.

Our membership fees have changed to R850.00 annually. The invoices will be sent out at the beginning of April 2020. Our financial year will be from 1 April 2020 to 31 Mar  2021 and the membership to us will be valid from 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021. Our next AGM will be on Wednesday, 27 May 2020. 

 

The WFPA proudly hosted two National meetings at Delheim Wine Estate on the 19 th and 20 th February 2020. The first was the National Umbrella FPA Forum, which is made up of two representatives from all the 9 Provincial Umbrella FPA`s in the country, as well as two representatives from Directorate Forestry and Regulation within DEFF (Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries). This forum discusses issues pertaining to FPA`s within each province, as there are often the same problems in other provinces, and ideas and solutions are sought in order to resolve these. Our WFPA manager is currently the Acting Chairperson of this forum. The three key outcomes from this meeting that are of interest to our members are:-

  1. There was a unanimous agreement on writing a letter, directly to the Minister, requesting

the re-introduction of the Prohibition of burning during high fire danger periods. As

prescribed in the Act 101, under which we fall, this duty may be delegated to the respective

provinces who would then, through their respective UFPA`s and other relevant authorities,

Gazette and enforce the prohibitions for the agreed periods. This is one of the main

mitigation measures that could be introduced to try and reduce the number of unwanted

Ignitions.

 

  1. Members of this forum also serve on task teams that look at implementation issues with

regards to the National Veld and Forest Fire Act. Recommendations are again submitted to

the National Fire Workgroup for consideration and implementation as required. At this time

there are 4 task teams dealing with key identified topics.

 

  1. Finally, the other summer rainfall provinces, with the exception of North West, are all

experiencing a “green drought”, meaning they have received rainfall and everything looks

nice and green, but the key dam levels are very low and in some cases are critical.

The second meeting on 20 th was the National Veld Fire Workgroup which is led by the National Office of DEFF. The purpose of this group, which is meant to have representatives from the various relevant National Departments, is to ensure and give inputs into the implementation of the Act and that all the identified key role-players are aware of their obligations etc. This is a broader group and includes representatives from Escom, Sanral, Transnet, WoF, UFPA`s, Insurance Industry and various other national interest groups. We would like to thank Delheim and their management, especially Nora and Victor, for the venue as well as our WFPA executive for their ongoing support.

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