Burn at reserve

H Winter, Plattekloof

On Thursday February 9, the Tygerberg Nature Reserve staff went about to have a controlled burn on the Plattekloof side of the reserve (“Controlled burn planned for nature reserve,” Northern News, February 1).

When I saw smoke rising this morning, I went to investigate and could not believe what I saw.

There, at the corner of Jim Fouche Avenue and Graaf Way, were about a dozen fire-fighting vehicles of all sorts and some 80 to 100 personnel from the fire department, nature reserve and Working on Fire burning a patch of overgrowth the size of about 3000m2.

When I asked a woman from the reserve if it would not have made more sense to employ labourers with brush cutters to do this job she replied: “That would be too labour intensive and there is a lot of rubbish amongst the bushes.”

An investigation should be launched. Who decided that it would be cheaper to use all those resources – including fire engines, water and highly skilled firefighters — instead of 30 labourers.We are in the middle of our wildfire season and our firefighters should rather have been on stand-by to deal with real emergencies.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development responds:

Integrated veld fire management is necessary, and regular planned burning is required to prevent future runaway veld fires. It is therefore of utmost importance to have competent firefighters in order to assist with resources such as fire-fighting equipment and vehicles. They also provide years of knowledge and experience which they share freely with the reserve management in the decision-making and planning process. The firefighters used a hydrant only once to fill a bush fire-fighting unit while waiting for the tanker to return from the dam.

At this year’s ecological burn, the Tygerberg Nature Reserve and Fire and Rescue Service management decided to use as much non-potable water as possible.

At completion of the burn, 80 percent of the water used for it came from the rainwater sump at the Goodwood fire station and later during the burn, water was pumped into the water tankers from the Olienhout Dam in Plattekloof. The tankers were then used to fill all the smaller bravo and skid units.

The City has more than 240 firefighters on duty per shift, and the resources utilised for this prescribed burn had a minimal impact on their ability to deal with any other emergency that could have arisen. Contingency plans were put in place for all eventualities.