UNDP joins government and other partners in the initiative to manage severe fires

Nov 1, 2016

Tessa Oliver (Project Coordinator) and Val Charlton (Project Director) launch the Handbook, A Guide to Integrated Fire Management Photo: Kishugu

With extended fire seasons and the outbreak of more severe fires due to drought, government entities, trained fire rescue personnel and residents are taking a proactive role in fire management.

Although the fire season typically runs from December until April, Philip Prins, the fire and technical services manager at SANParks, (Table Mountain National Park), said the season for the past two years has started a month early. Dry vegetation resulting from the drought can also cause fires to spread more rapidly.

Over a span of four years, Department of Environment, UNDP and other major stakeholders teamed up with Kishugu for the Greater Good to reduce disaster risks from wildland fire in the Fynbos biome stretching from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape through a comprehensive, integrated fire management initiative, FynbosFire project.

Project organisers implemented a wide range of measures including the development of websites about fire management and risk   assessment tools for wildland urban interfaces, installation of automated weather stations with live updates and predictive modelling, and membership growth of fire protection associations.

With funding from GEF, managed by UNDP, more than 4 700 people were sent on training courses ranging from basic wildfire fighting to incident command.

The project also led to the production of the first-of-its kind toolkit for firefighters, land owners, local authorities and NGOs – the GEF FynbosFire Integrated Fire Management Handbook.

“This is a fantastic project. It’s a pilot project that has come up with ground breaking things,” said Ms Tessa Oliver, the Project Coordinator of Kishugu.

“It would be great to see that people take on certain aspects of the project like the weather stations and actually roll them out nationally,” she added.

Despite an increase in fires, there has been more awareness and reporting from communities, alerting fire outbreaks from the onset, mitigating the extent of damages, said Shane Christian, general manager of Working on Fire.

So far, there have been more than 2 000 veld fires in the Western Cape since the start of November. According to a couple of the project’s leading partners, a key component to effective fire prevention and management is the expansion of fire protection associations (FPAs), one of the many successes of the FynbosFire initiative.

Each of the district municipalities within the Western Cape has a registered FPA, which is an organisation formed by land owners to predict, prevent and manage wildfires in designated areas.

According to UNDP Programme Manager for Environment, Janice Golding GEF is the biggest portfolio for the Country Office and it is very encouraging to see that most of the projects under GEF are yielding good results. “We were also pleased to have partnered with the DEA, SANparks, Kishugu among others in this project and we look forward to continue working more closely in this project,” she said.

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