INTEGRATED FIRE MANAGEMENT

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). 

 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.  This can be summarized as following:

 

 

Element

Components

1

Risk Assessment

Fire ecology, history and behaviour

Proper mapping to inform decision making

Quantification of risk – social environmental and economic

Capacity and resource audits

2

Stakeholder organisation

Stakeholder identification

Fire awareness

Communications

3

Fire management planning

Fire awareness

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

4

Detection and suppression

Monitoring

Detection

Suppression systems

Suppression

5

Rehabilitation

Planning

Implementation of rehabilitation plans

6

Record-keeping and M&E

Systems development,

Record-keeping,

M&E framework,

M&E data collection and analysis