The Eastern Cape is situated in naturally fire-prone ecosystems.
The inherent fire hazard is exacerbated by the following:
– An increasing extent of the urban development interface with naturally fire-prone systems.
– The escalating occurrence of extensive infestations of invading alien plants.
– Fire risks associated with forestry and agriculture.
– The build-up of excessive fuel loads (natural, commercial and invasive).
ECUFPA has also developed a Veld Fire Strategy for the Eastern Cape Province. A copy of this strategy can be downloaded by clicking here.

Budget and capacity constraints have also severely curtailed the effective management of these areas.  While the natural ecological role of fire must be recognised, the exposure of communities, agriculture and business to large, devastating fires in the recent past has emphasised the need for an integrated approach to fire management in the affected regions. 

 The impact of wild fires in natural vegetation on the poorest of the poor, particularly the rural poor, cannot be overstated.  It is those living at the margins who are always the most vulnerable.  In the case of rural informal settlements (and also in the case of some of the urban settlements), these are located physically at the margin, in the transition zone between densely settled land and land carrying high fuel loads.  Whether these fuel loads are the result of alien invasive plants or the lack of integrated veld management (including fuel reduction strategies) in the natural veld, the consequence is the same.  It is high fire risk, and it is the inhabitants of the adjacent informal settlements that bear the brunt of such unmanaged risk. The direct losses are in terms of: 

  • loss of life, and disability, due to vegetation fires; 
  • loss of housing and possessions when thatched or wooden dwellings ignite, and 
  • loss of grazing, crops, livestock and subsistence natural resources.

Of equal – if not greater – importance is the “knock-on” effect of wild fires on rural economies.  The forestry sector in the Eastern Cape makes a significant contribution to the rural economy and local employment.  Situated in the mountainous areas of the province, mostly invisible from the major roads, the sector has received little attention in the past. With a looming national timber shortage, the dire need for rural economic development, and investment in major new wood processing capacity, it is becoming recognised that the forestry sector plays a legitimate and significant role in the local economy.

 With the help of the strategic partners the SA National Government, Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), provincial Disaster Management Centres and the Working on Fire programme (WoF), the Umbrella Association can positively contribute to the effective control of wild fires across the province and assist Local Councils with fires in their municipal areas.  

The answer in addressing most of these issues are Integrated Fire Management.


Fire ecology, history and behaviour

Proper mapping to inform decision making

Quantification of risk – social environmental and economic

Capacity and resource audits


Stakeholder identification

Fire awareness



Fire awareness

Risk reduction measures including fuel load management, fire breaks and compliance




Suppression systems




Implementation of rehabilitation plans


Systems development,


M&E framework,

M&E data collection and analysis


The ECUFPA will assist and encourage all its FPA members and provide the necessary advice and supply relevant information to member FPAs on aspects of veld and forest fires.


For the basic functioning of any FPA, the following will apply:

  •  General Strategies

This includes actions such as supportive fire awareness campaigns at the beginning of the fire season and poster campaigns in the higher risk areas.

  •  Integrated Wildfire management plans

These actions include fire prevention as well as fire suppression and recovery plans in cases where wild fires caused damage.  These plans must be drawn up with the Disaster Management Centres (DMC) to be incorporated into the disaster management frameworks of the province.

  •  Specific asset protection strategies

These actions include the burning of fire breaks around homesteads on farms and farm boundaries, plantations, under power lines and fuel reduction strategies such as under canopy burning.

To be successful the Umbrella FPA will have to focus on the following key indicators. They are:

  • Advise and assist  Fire Protection Associations to be sustainable
  • Assist Fire Protection Associations with Database Systems
  • Improve Communication Channels
  • Coordination and management of Aerial support
  • Assist with the Coordination of Ground support
  • Promote the principle of the Incident Command System (ICS) in the Eastern Cape
  • Assist FPAs in organizing Training
  • Assist and advise FPAs with Administration and Legal compliance
  • Assist and advise to compile Best Operating Procedures (BOP)
  • Promote and assist with Integrated Fire Management Strategies

KPI 1:             Advise and assist Fire Protection Associations to be sustainable

The ECUFPA will promote and support effective and sustainable FPAs within the Eastern Cape Province. This would include reconfiguration and governance options for FPAs.

Key Strategies:

  • Determine management capabilities of existing FPAs and strengthen them.
  • FPAs may be advised and assisted to become functional FPAs to exercise their mandate under the act.
  • Assist to restructure FPAs into a long term sustainable model.
  • Assist FPAs to integrate Municipalities within their fire prevention strategies.
  • Establish and administer agreements with Government Departments and Parastatals for FPA Membership.
  • Develop funding proposals to the mutual benefit of all member FPAs in the Eastern Cape.
  • The UFPA will facilitate the distribution of available funds and resources to member FPAs.
  • The UFPA may act as agent in securing funding and resources through its strategic partners, including levies and fees from stakeholders.
  • The financial distribution will be a transparent and fair process in terms of recognised best corporate governance practices and approved policies.

KPI 2:             Assist Fire Protection Associations with Database systems

The ECUFPA  will assist in developing database systems (electronic or otherwise) that can assist FPA’s with information and legal compliance.

Key Strategies:

  • ECUFPA will establish and maintain a database of all FPA boundaries.
  • Assist member FPAs with establishing and maintaining a GIS based landowner system.
  • Strive towards establishing mobile based applications for FPA Mapping systems.
  • Assist member FPAs with establishing and maintaining an FPA Member’s Register Database template.
  • Develop and maintain general database on behalf of FPAs, such as Fire Statistics, etc.
  • Assist FPAs with planning functions.

KPI 3:             Improve Communication Channels

The ECUFPA will provide a platform for effective communication between FPAs, Strategic Partners, Stakeholders and Government.

Key Strategies:

  • Regular communication to member FPAs (Electronic media will be the main communication medium).
  • The ECUFPA will represent FPAs on various Local, Provincial and National platforms.
  • Liaise and negotiate with provincial and local government structures on matters based on common interests and duties regarding the annual fire season fire prohibition periods and duties of stakeholders.
  • The ECUFPA will communicate feedback to the members via the Operations Committee (OPCO) and meetings.
  • The ECUFPA will centralise the communication of weather data and fire danger rating (FDR) via e-mail communication and its website.
  • Maintain good communication channels with relevant stakeholders.

KPI 4:             Coordination and Management of Aerial support

The ECUFPA will be required to source and manage aerial resources on behalf of FPAs and Stakeholders.

Key Strategies:

  • Establish Memorandum of Agreement or contracts between ECUFPA and relevant service providers.
  • Establish relationship between ECUFPA and Provincial Disaster Management.
  • Establish and maintain contracts between ECUFPA and companies making use of aerial resources.
  • The ECUFPA will be required to assist in sourcing, controlling and coordinating the placement of all aerial resources through the WoF programme or any other available service provider.
  • With the disaster management frameworks in place these resources will be managed for the benefit of all stakeholders in the province.

KPI 5:             Assist with the Coordination of Ground support

The ECUFPA sees the need to assist and support ground operations within the Eastern Cape.  A close relationship between Service Providers and the ECUFPA is essential.

Key Strategies:

  • Assist with establishment of Memorandum of Agreement or contracts between ECUFPA and Working on Fire or relevant service provider.
  • Coordination of ground teams at incidents on request.

KPI 6:             Promote the principle of the Incident Command System (ICS) in the Eastern Cape

The ECUFPA supports and promotes the use of ICS during wildfire suppression operations.

Key Strategies:

  • Ensure that all member FPAs understand and adopt ICS policies and procedure.
  • Facilitate ICS training.
  • The UFPA may provide an incident command function for the province in case of extreme wild fires.
  • Establish or integrate with existing incident command structures and assist the Disaster Management Centres (DMC) by mobilizing and deployment of resources in cases of wild fires or other disasters in the province.
  • An ICS radio network will be established by the ECUFPA which may be utilized at major incidents.

KPI 7:             Assist FPAs in organizing Training

ECUFPA supports skills development and capacity building based on training. The focus is on supporting FPAs and their members that are directly responsible for the implementation of integrated fire management activities within their regions.

Key Strategies:

  • Establish training needs and recommend suitable service providers.
  • Source funding and provide subsidised training.
  • Communicate available training opportunities.
  • Identify skill shortages within FPAs to determine specific training needs.
  • Training and refresher training may be arranged through the UFPA with training providers.
  • Facilitate FPA Management training.

KPI 8:             Assist and advise FPAs with Administration and Legal compliance

The ECUFPA can assist the member FPAs with registration, functionality and legal compliance.

Key Strategies:

  • Assess and assist with administration, skills and competency levels of FPAs.
  • Determine and assist FPAs with the level of legal compliance via internal assessment, in consultation with DFFE.
  • Promote and establish uniform administration systems to assist FPAs.
  • Centralise negotiations and membership with Government departments and parastatals.
  • The UFPA will centralise the communication of weather data and fire danger rating (FDR) to member FPAs.
  • The UFPA may advise members with legal matters, if requested.
  • Submit reports, forms and documentation to DFFE, on behalf of FPAs.

KPI 9:             Assist and advise to compile Best Operating Procedures (BOP)

The ECUFPA supports and promotes BOP in order to provide generic implementation guidelines and efficient protocols between stakeholders.

Key Strategies:

  • Develop and distribute relevant BOP’s to all member FPAs.
  • Distribute BOP’s to stakeholders for inputs.
  • Compare BOP’s with other UFPAs.
  • Distribute ICS standard operating procedure.

KPI 10:          Promote and assist with Integrated Fire Management Strategies

The ECUFPA recognizes that the social and economic impact of wildfires can only be reduced by the effective planning and implementation of the Integrated Fire Management Principles.

Key Strategies:

  • Develop guidelines with all stakeholders required for the EC FPAs Integrated Fire Management Plan.
  • Align FPA activities with Working on Fire, Working for Water and other Natural Resource Management programs.
  • Promote fire awareness efforts together with relevant stakeholders.
  • Strive to encompass all other ECUFPA KPIs and Key Strategies into the sphere of Integrated Fire Management.


Veldfires is an important natural hazard in South Africa.  To be able to plan for fire incidences one must understand the fire risk, frequency and distribution in the province. 


In compiling this section information is used from CSIR Report No: CSIR/NRE/ECO/ER/2010/0023/C, namely National Veldfire Risk Assessment: Analysis of Exposure of Social, Economic and Environmental Assets to Veldfire Hazards in South Africa by Authors: GG Forsyth, FJ Kruger and DC Le Maitre, March 2010.



  • Fire regime and fire-ecology types

The “fire regime” is the history of fire in a particular vegetation type or area including the frequency, intensity and season of burning; it is the combination of elements that typifies fires in a given region, under assumed natural conditions.


A fire-ecology type is a class of vegetation types that is relatively uniform in terms of the fire regimes (e.g. frequency, season, intensity and size) within the constituent vegetation types.


Figure 1.  The distribution of the 13 fire-ecology types based on the descriptions and distribution of the vegetation.


  • Rural populations and veldfires:

Rural populations in South Africa affect fire activity and fire affect these communities adversely.   Figure 2 clearly indicate the concentration of rural settlements in the Eastern Cape.


 Figure 2.                  Indicative distribution of the rural population in the Eastern Cape. This shows only dispersed rural settlements, which account for the larger majority of rural people


  • Veldfire risk levels in South Africa:

Extreme overall veldfire risk corresponds with the Sour Grassland and Moist Woodland fire- ecology types. In the Fynbos fire-ecology type such conditions only occur where there are commercial forestry plantations. In Coastal Grasslands and Arid Woodlands pockets of Extreme veldfire risk occur where there are dispersed rural settlements. In 48.2% of the province there is an Extreme veldfire risk, while it is High in 5.3%, Medium in 18.8% and Low in 27.8%. In areas of Extreme and High veldfire risk it is necessary to take precautions to safe guard lives, livelihoods, property and the environment.

Figure 3.                  Overall assessment of veldfire risk levels in the Eastern Cape.


It is important to look at fire danger within a municipal level.  Refer to appendix 1 for detailed fire danger ratings per municipality.


  • Fire Regions in the Eastern Cape:

The Eastern Cape is clearly divided into two distinct fire regions.


Summer rainfall area:

This includes the largest portion of the Eastern Cape.  The eastern and northern regions predominantly have a summer rainfall season with mainly Grasslands, Savanna and a winter fire season.


Winter rainfall area:

The southern and in particular the Tsitsikamma area is predominantly a winter rainfall region with a summer fire season.  This area does however link in with the Southern Cape that is widely regarded as an all year fire season.

Aerial Resources in the Eastern Cape

Currently the situation with regard to aerial resources in the province is as follows:


Winter fire season – June to October

Contracted Resources:

 PG Bison 1 x Huey Helicopter  Ugie 
  1 x Spotter Plane Ugie


Contracted Pool Resources:

 1 x Huey Helicopter Ugie 
 1 x Spotter Plane



The above aircraft are contracted to the above companies by ECUFPA.            


General information on aircraft

Helicopters are initial attack equipment, and are extremely effective when used in this role. The main purpose in aerial fire fighting, is to get to the fire as soon as possible and then, to hit hard, with all means at your disposal, in order to get the fire under control in the shortest possible time.  It is therefore recommended, that the fire boss call the helicopters at a very early stage of the fire, before the fire gets out of control.

The primary task of the spotter aircraft is to coordinate the aerial attack at a fire.  The spotter plane can also be utilised to advise the ground crews and fire boss on the strategy with regard to the fire fighting operation.  It can be called upon to patrol an area for the early detection of fires or to ensure a flare up is detected quickly. In terms of safety on the fire line a spotter plane is a very useful tool. 

All calls for aircraft, other than contracted companies, must be directed to Thinus Botha at 082 9228 637 or 043 683 2659