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Mpumalanga Fire Season opens

12 Jul, 2017Kishugu Training

The Mpumalanga Fire Season Opening event took place on 30 June 2017 in Mbombela, Nelspruit. This event was jointly launched by DAFF, COGTA, Working on Fire and the Mpumalanga Umbrella Fire Protection Association.

The aim of the event was to bring all the stakeholders of veld and forest fire management together establishing a united front with regard to veld fire mitigation and response in the province during the 2017 fire season. The event provide a platform for FPAs, governmental institutions, non-profit organisations, service provider and suppliers to engage with regard to integrated fire management.

The event was opened by Chief Khanye of the Emalahleni Fire Service by the bell ringing ceremony and prayer. Guest speakers provided messages of support to all the stakeholders involved in this community driven initiative. The Chief Director of COGTA, Sam Ngubane delivered a message of support on behalf of the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in Mpumalanga, Hon Refilwe Mtshweni. He reiterated the need for coordination and cooperation with in the province to ensure that the province avoided the devastation recently experienced in the Southern Cape. The current and predicted weather patterns and veld conditions throughout the province indicated the potential for an increase in fire risk would be the norm and thus the need for greater awareness and a higher level of readiness. An appeal to all landowners to comply with the National Veld and Forest Fire Act was made. “Our department which is COGTA, working with municipalities is mobilizing communities to adhere to the legislative guidelines in pursuit of an incident free fire season.” He reiterated that the target during fire season would be zero loss of life would be pursued. The zero death target needs to be achieved within the limited financial resources in pursuit of the objectives of the national development plan aimed at increasing the life expectancy of our people. COGTA is bound by this commitment. As a part of this commitment COGTA has developed a turnaround strategy that is related to issues concerning fire services in the province. A recommendation is the establishment of Provincial Fire Services Advisory Committee which is a used by fire officers to share issues of commonalities. Support to FPAs and the coordinated efforts of all stakeholders would ensure that these commitments could be met. He encouraged landowners to join the FPAs as a means to better coordinate resources and efforts in the province. On behalf of the MEC, a thank you to all stakeholder for their hard work and continued commitment to securing a safer future.

Martin Bolton provided a message of support and an overview of the Working on Fire Programmes readiness within the province for the coming season. He commended the continued support and partnership between Provincial Disaster Management, FPAs, DAFF and landowners who are always keen to ensure that there is an integrated approach to fire management in the province. Through these partnerships a significant drop in fires recorded between 2015 and 2016. With the country currently experiencing ongoing drought conditions the expectation that the 2017 fire season will be a difficult one. Through partnership between relevant stakeholders, public, private and governmental, we will be able to have a rapid response in rendering a high skilled veldfire suppression service.

Director of DAFF in Mpumalanga, Andrew Tshivhane gave a message of support encouraging all stakeholders to take hands in the reduction of fire related incidents. He emphasised the need for cooperation and sharing of resources in the fight against fire, from awareness to protection and suppression, pooling resources to achieve greater efficiency in the management and containment of fire incidents. He pointed out that the legislative framework, the National Veld and Forest Fire Act 101 of 1998 was purposed to prevent the loss of life and property in the South African landscape. It was highlighted that participation with FPAs, the function stakeholders in the province, was vital to achieve the objectives of the Act.

Duane Roothman, Chairperson of the Mpumalanga Umbrella Fire Protection Association, gave the key note address, calling on all governmental, local, district and provincial level departments, fire protection associations and sector partners to participate actively at all levels. He gave an overview of current events nationally and internationally. Landowners have been empowered through the NVFFA 101 of 1998 to look after their own land through, participation with FPAs, collaboration with governmental institutions and non-profit organizations. Proper fire prevention is a daily activity and should look at establishing preventative measure, building resource capacities and capabilities. It ensures early detection, resource readiness and rapid response to effectively and efficiently extinguish fire with disaster potential. He made reference to regions across the globe experiencing disaster fires as well as the recent Knysna fire s that had such devastating consequences. “My plight is to let’s take hands and go out into communities, governmental spheres, local, district and provincial and keep doing the right things. Let’s coordinate properly, get value for money spent preventing disasters. Let’s use the resources deployed in the province properly.” He indicated that within the province approximately 500 million rand were invested by landowners into protecting their property, the Working on Fire Programme an additional 100 million rand. He called on local, district and provincial government within the province to participate and reinforce the resources that are currently deployed.

All speakers at the event conveyed the message that the phenomenon of climate change will have a major impact on the coming fire season and the challenges faced in prevention, protection and suppression can only be bridged by integration of all related stakeholders. “Let take hands.”

The success of the event can be attributed to the willingness of agencies to provide resources, manpower, materials as well as funds in a collaborative effort toward greater awareness in the province. Many thanks to Sappi Southern Africa, Silvix, Hlatini Forestry Specialist, Fire 247, Produkta Trucks, Lowveld and Escarpment FPA and Kishugu Training for their contributions.

Kishugu Training held a lucky raffle during the event for a R1000.00 prize. This was won by Thandi Sambo. Working on Fire provided a drill demonstration by its fire fighters. A aerial resources with the Lowveld and Escarpment FPA provided a fly-by demonstration for the attendees.

As Mr Roothman said, “Let’s have a good fire season, one without any loss of live or the loss of economic viability.”

Article originally published on Fire and Rescue, available here.

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