The sight of smoke billowing from the Kleinmond Harbour area on Wednesday, 25 October may have had many thinking a potential disaster was about to unfold. All fears, however, were soon allayed as it emerged that the Overstrand Fire and Disaster Management, in cooperation with Overstrand Environmental Services, were conducting a controlled fire burn in the coastal block adjacent to John Daniel Street,
The primary objective of the controlled burn is to reduce fire fuel loads and promote biodiversity in the affected zone. Controlled fires are also the most practical way to reduce dangerous accumulation of combustible fuels. Moreover, veld fires that burn in areas where fuels have been reduced by prescribed fires cause less damage and are much easier to control. Recent reports have shown that veld fires are inevitable, and are becoming more intense and frequent. Overstrand Municipality finds itself located within a fire-dependent biome with aggravated weather and topographic features.
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 Kleinmond occurrence, the IC was Marlu Rust of Overstrand’s Fire and Disaster Management unit.
The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response providing a common hierarchy within which responders from multiple agencies can be effective.
Speaking at the site, Rust said, “The Overstrand is known for its fynbos. However, this vegetation is fire dependent, which means it needs to burn to regenerate. If left unburned for too long, fuel accumulates and causes the fynbos to lose its vigour, become moribund, more flammable and burns more intensely.”
These controlled burns form part of a combined program between Overstrand Environmental and Fire/Disaster Management Services aimed at managing the benefits and 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.