“We might be the first generation to grasp our position in, and impact on nature. We might also be the last generation to be able to take action.”
These were the striking words of Dr. Mmaphaka Tau, Deputy Director of the National Disaster Management Centre during the Wildfire Ready Convention which took place at the Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West in the Western Cape on 28 November 2018.
The annual Summer Fire Season Launch coincided with the first Wildfire Ready Convention held under the auspices of the Western Cape Umbrella Fire Protection Association (FPA). This two-day convention focused on the future of managing wildfires in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). It also focused on how, through Integrated Fire Management (IFM) and its four operational components, reduction, readiness, response and recovery, fire authorities can work together to better mitigate the risk of the start and spreading of unwanted wildfires.
Stakeholders which included various Fire Prevention Associations (FPAs), government and municipal delegates, the media, service providers, conservation- and volunteer agencies and fire services from across the world participated in this very informative convention.
Speakers included Tim Murphy from the US Forest Service and Northern Rockies Coordinating Group, Dr. Christo Marais from the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa, Dr. Jack Cohen from the US Forest Services, Mr. Hugo Arceo from Air Tractor Europe, Dr. Mmaphaka Tau from the National Disaster Management Centre and Trevor Abrahams, of the Expanded Public Works Programme, Working on Fire, in South Africa, to name but a few.
These speakers shared valuable research, experience and insights from across the globe – enlarging attendees’ understanding of the modern-day challenges in wildland firefighting.
Dr Peter Johnston who is a Climate Impacts Researcher at the University of Cape Town, emphasised that climate change is not a religion which you need to believe in. “You either accept the research that proves it, or you don’t.” In his presentation he emphasised that rainfall and fire seasons as we know it, started showing irregularities “outside’ the seasons and proved to increase in length.
Mr. Marc Castellnou: Catalan Fire Service in Europe discussed the importance of an integrated fire management approach to today’s wildfires and based his theory on recent extreme wildfires cases in Europe. “Having aerial resources – especially a combination of Air Tractors and helicopters – as part of your approach to wildland firefighting is essential. It adds significant value to your ground firefighting efforts,” explains Hugo Arceo – Sales Manager at AirTractor Europe. He discussed the effectiveness of aerial firefighting, with a special focus on the capabilities and effectiveness of the Air Tractor 802 fixed-wing water bomber. “There are currently 800 Air Tractors across the globe with more than half engaged in wildland firefighting.”
One of the highlights of the convention was Working on Fire’s, aerial display, by Kishugu Aviation. It showcased, a Cessna 206 Spotter Aircraft, a Huey Helicopter, Air Tractor 802 SEAT and ground teams, emphasizing the effectiveness and interaction between ground and aerial firefighting teams. It once again proved the importance of an integrated response when dealing with a wildfire.
According to Emile Grobbelaar: Acting CEO for Kishugu Aviation and partner to the event, the launch and convention was a great success. “The topics discussed during the convention were very applicable and aligned well with Kishugu’s philosophy and the importance of implementing Integrated Fire Management.”