Overstrand Municipality successfully burned 80 hectares of Blesberg Mountain in Betty’s Bay on 4 April 2023. In addition to restore and improve the ecological biodiversity of an area, controlled burns are one of the most practical ways to reduce the build-up of combustible fuels.
While the active phase of the prescribed burn was completed on Tuesday evening, mop-up operations and monitoring continued through Friday morning when it started to rain.
The burn was the first prescribe burn for the 2023 control burn season for the Municipality and form part of a combined program between Overstrand Environmental Services and Fire Management Services aimed at managing the risks of veld fires. The design is further on meeting the immediate and longer-term needs of the Municipality and the community with respect to the preservation of lives, infrastructure, and property, as too the conservation of a healthy biodiversity ecosystem
“The Deputy Mayor and I went to the scene to see for ourselves what is happening at the burn, and I was impressed with what they did on the day and how efficient they were in their response,” Mayor Rabie said
She expressed her gratitude towards Cape Nature, Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association (goFPA), Overberg District Municipality, Enviro Wildfire, Working on Fire and the Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) who assisted the Overstrand Fire Department with the burn and praised the Kogelberg Biosphere Wildlife Rescue Volunteer team who relocate wildlife prior and after the burn
The Mayor applauded partnership efforts of this nature and said she will thank all role players in person during the debriefing session later in the month.
According to feedback from the Kogelberg Biosphere Wildlife Rescue Team, the first walk along the R44 revealed several casualties, “but not from the fire as expected, but rather from speeding cars. Dozens of chameleons, a couple of frogs, as well as a mongoose and a sunbird were impacted by the traffic as they tried to escape the flames by crossing the R44”
“In the smouldering veld rescuers found the carcases of a few snake species, including a beautiful Harlequin snake that most likely died from smoke inhalation. A few frogs, including an Arum lily toad was found alive and relocated to a suitable wetland.”
Speaking at the event, Fire Chief Lester Smith explained that veld fires that burn in areas where fuels have been reduced by prescribed fires cause less damage and are much easier to control.
“We need to ensure measures are in place to mitigate the risk of veldfires,” he said.
Where controlled burns of this nature are undertaken, the resources concerned are under the control of an Incident Commander (IC). In the case of the Betty’s Bay Blesberg occurrence, the IC was Angelo Aplon, Assistant Fire Chief for Operations and Training.
Aplon explained that the Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardised approach for command, control, and co-ordination of emergency response providing a unified hierarchy within which responders from multiple agencies can be effective. The incident was divided into functional division and groups, which had specific objectives for their operational period.
Approximately 150 people were part of the burn on the day, including the 60 volunteers from Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and Rooi-Els communities who joined the ‘search and rescue operation on the Sunday before the burn to safe some animals before and during the fire. They all work under a unified command structure.
Foto Credit: Joan Isham