The fire season in Western Cape is in full swing and this year no less than 26 aircraft will be available to help with firefighting.
“Including the fleet used last year, an additional three water bomber aircraft will be deployed this year,” said Anton Bredell, Western Cape Minister of Local Government.
“The new additions have even larger water carrying capacity and a longer range than aircraft previously used.”
The summer fire season officially started last Monday (December 1) but the province has been on the receiving end of close to 50 multi-day fires since September. Coupled with the worst fire season in seven years recorded in the northern parts of South Africa, experts believe a rough fire season lies ahead for Western Cape.
Eleven helicopters, six fixed wing water bombers and nine spotters make up the 26-strong firefighting fleet based in Tulbagh, Porterville, Donkerhoek, Stellenbosch, Bredasdorp, Stilbaai, Newlands, Plettenberg Bay and Knysna.
On the ground Working on Fire (WoF), along with local municipalities, district councils and the provincial government has 820 trained firefighters based at 28 bases across the province for the duration of the fire season.
Bredell said the strategy for this season was to respond with the maximum amount of aircraft and ground teams to a fire as early as possible.
“By gaining control within the first hour the possibility of a major incident is minimised,” he said.
Water bombers will this year be able to use 36 runways, as opposed to the 26 available last year. This will improve response times, which were around the 95% first hour success rate last year.
In the 2013/14 Western Cape fire season WoF suppressed 159 fires and limited burnt areas in the province to 37 868 ha A hundred and eleven firefighting teams saw action and over 607 flying hours were logged protecting not only peoples’ lives but also infrastructure and biodiversity.