The Cape Winelands District Municipality (CWDM) Fire Services recently celebrated the graduation of firefighters who attended its Cape Winelands Fire Training Academy.
The 16 firefighters from various municipalities and the SA Navy spent 10 weeks completing the courses Firefighter Level 2 and Hazmat Operations Level 2, equipping them with the skills to help mitigate the loss of lives and livelihoods.
The graduation was a proud moment for all, and for Yaaseen Jacobs (Firefighter Level 2) and Granville Petersen (Hazmat Operations Level 2) of Stellenbosch Municipality’s Fire Services the blood, sweat, tears and long hours of study paid off. They were each recognised as the top student in their respective courses and also achieved the highest scores in the practical and theoretical exams.
According to Yaseen: “The course is tough on all levels, but one has to learn to persevere, even when you are very tired. The course has prepared me well for the upcoming fire season. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know.”
Fellow graduate Granville agreed with Yaseen, adding, “I like to be fit, so the physical work was okay. It was the theory and all the new terminology that caught me! My favourite new word is viscosity.”
In addition to 80 full time firefighters, the CWDM has 40 reservists to assist during the fire season, all of whom received specialised training in wildfire management. Fire Services is geared with purpose-built equipment such as 4×4 vehicles and water tankers fitted with mega pumpers and is supported by contracted ground teams and air support, when required.
Even though they are equipped, it is vital that each citizen takes responsibility for the prevention of fires, as firefighting is not only very costly, but the damage to and loss of natural resources plus the strain on limited fire staff can be debilitating.
Fire Services and their partner, the Fire Protection Association, wish to remind citizens that we have entered the period of the year known as the fire season. The warm summer weather and dry veld mean that veld and wildfires are far more likely to occur during the months of October to April.
The district municipality fulfils a different function to that of the fire departments of the local municipalities, although the two services often assist one another when resources are available. There is a concern that veld and vegetation around farms and farm-related infrastructure have not been maintained, which could add fuel when wildfires occur.
“We all know that the year has been challenging and due to the pandemic and resulting lockdown, many landowners have not had firebreaks cleared. This, together with lush vegetation brought about by the good rainfall we experienced, signals to us that we may be in for a very difficult fire season,” said the CWDM’s Acting Chief Fire Officer, Wayne Josias.
“It is each landowner’s responsibility to ensure that their property is as fireproof as possible. The cool weather we’ve had until now serves as an opportunity to get ground cleared and make sure that you fireproof your property before disaster strikes.”
Fire Services would like to share the following information:
– It is illegal and irresponsible to make fires anywhere other than in designated picnic areas. In fact, they urge the public not to make fires anywhere except at home. Coals often do not extinguish fully and are then reignited by a breeze, causing fires in surrounding bushes that quickly progress to a wildfire.
– Land and property owners should remove dead and alien vegetation from their property, including the verges (borders). Make sure to cut back vegetation and branches that are close to windows, glass doors and wooden decks.
– All controlled fires are illegal during the summer months, which means that permits for burning waste and alien vegetation are not issued from October to April (the fire season). Landowners especially need to take heed of this. The Fire Protection Agency (FPA) gives advice on how to protect your property – contact them at winelandsfpa.co.za