Category: <span>Fire Fighting</span>

Denneoord emergency airstrip is safe and a major boost to regional firefighting efforts

The George Municipality is proud of its role in establishing Eden’s first dedicated emergency firefighting airstrip in Denneoord and is confident its operations will be safe for residents in its flight circuit.

The municipality will officially open the Denneoord Aerial Fire Base tomorrow (6 December 2017) together with the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association and in partnership with Working on Fire and Eden District Municipality. The opening will coincide with the launch of the Southern Cape summer fire season.

George Municipality Fire Chief Neels Barnard said having a dedicated airstrip for firefighting aeroplanes was a major step forward for firefighting efforts in George and Eden as quick response to fires was essential. “Having a dedicated emergency airstrip means firefighting planes can respond much faster than they would be able to if they were stationed at an airport where they would have to wait in line for a runway along with other aircraft. This is especially applicable during the summer fire season which coincides with the very busy holiday season when hundreds of flights are scheduled at commercial airports.

“George is privileged to have this facility on our doorstep as our proximity to the airbase will ensure very quick response. During test runs last week, response to the site of a veld fire in Wilderness took five minutes, and allowed for quick reconnaissance and appropriate response,” said Mr Barnard.

The aerial base is operated by Working on Fire, a programme funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs, where five aeroplanes and a chopper will be stationed for the fire season from December 2017 to April 2018. Municipalities in the Eden District Municipality, in association with the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, will work with Working on Fire on a call-out basis as services are required. The airbase consists of a 1000mx30m runway, 20m-diameter helipad, firebase office (existing municipal building upgraded), hangars, taxiways and water refilling point.

Mr Barnard said residents of neighbourhoods in the flight circuit area of the Denneoord airstrip could be rest-assured all safety precautions were being taken and flyovers, landings and take-offs were all within the legal parameters set out in the South African Civil Aviation Act.  “Flights are being monitored by Air Traffic Control at the George Airport to ensure pilots adhere to the relevant standard operating procedures, which in turn are attached to approval from the Central Airspace Management Unit (CAMU) – the authority in South Africa responsible for the management of air traffic flow and capacity management.

“While the landing and take-offs may feel quite close to some residents, they are legal and safe. Pilots operating emergency aircraft are exceptionally experienced and qualified – the very nature of the jobs they have chosen are aimed at the rescue, protection and well-being of people and property.

“We reiterate the Denneoord airstrip is not an airport, but a dedicated emergency airbase for firefighting purposes only. Flights will be reactive only, which means if the aircraft takes off, there is a fire somewhere in the Eden District Municipal Area that requires aerial assistance and support.

“Like any disaster management situation, emergency aircraft may temporarily impact on residents surrounding the airstrip, but we believe the benefits of having life and property saving firefighting aircraft on standby during the high-risk fire season outweighs temporary impacts such as non-continual noise (which are exempted by the Western Cape Noise Control Regulations arising from emergency situations). We only need to remember the thousands of people who were displaced and left homeless during the Garden Route fires in June 2017 to understand the airstrip’s importance,” said Mr Barnard.

Authorisation for the development of an airstrip for emergency firefighting services by the Western Cape Government Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning was preceded by an environmental impact assessment – which took into consideration aspects such as noise, impacts on birds and animals, waste management and Civil Aviation Authority compliance – and included a public participation process.

The Denneoord site was the only available municipal land long enough for the establishment of an airstrip and with an available water source and infrastructure to house emergency aircraft and fill them in the required time for the firefighting response to be effective and efficient.

This Press Release was issued by George Municipality

Eden DM Firefighters attending the 2017 SAESI Conference

Six (6) Firefighters and one EMS officer, have been given the opportunity to travel to Johannesburg to attend South African Emergency Services Institute (SAESI) training and competition from 30 October – 3 November 2017.

Representatives currently at SAESI include Mr Lushiano James, Mr Hein Leslie, Mr Branwille Abrahams, Mr Kirwin Gericke, Mr Emile Conrad, Deon Madekane and Mr Jetro Jacobs.

The focus of the past two days of training was on vehicle extrication. Today Firefighters will compete in a vehicle extrication and Firefighter Combat Challenge until 3 November 2017.

Mr Clive Africa, Executive Manager: Community Services, explains: “The training is essential for firefighters because of the intricacy and technical aspects related to vehicle extrication. Firefighters have to be careful in their approach to similar emergency situations. I also think that with the holiday season coming up, we will be more than ready for any possible emergency.”

Executive Mayor, Cllr Memory Booysen extended a word of encouragement to representatives by saying: “Eden DM Council wishes the representatives all the best for the challenge tomorrow – they will make us proud – as always”.

Hats off to Eden DM firefighters and volunteers

Management of Eden District Municipality, on 30 June 2017, recognised and praised efforts by all the dedicated, courageous and heroic Eden DM firefighters and those who volunteered during the June 2017 inferno. It was the most devastating fire that swept through the Eden district since 1869.

Cllr Memory Booysen, Executive Mayor of Eden District Municipality, during his keynote address at the Appreciation Ceremony, explained to those present that there are no words to describe what firefighters and volunteers went through. “No matter what we say or how we say it, we will never experience the emotions and trauma that you all had to. You all saw properties destroyed, people and animals die. I also understand that you might have felt helpless at times, but be assured that we were and will always support and pray for you, every step of the way”.

Mr Johan Brand, Eden DM Station Officer (white shirt, left with Drone controls) takes a photo of firefighters, volunteers and managers who were given recognition for their efforts during the June 2017 inferno.

Cllr Booysen boasted about the firefighters’ accolades and reminded those present, that Eden DM has the best firefighters in South Africa. “You know when you are good; it rubs off on others, you make me feel like a Toughest Firefighter too.” He said that during his engagements with the President of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma and the Premier of the Western Cape, Ms Helen Zille, he reiterated to them about Eden DM having the best firefighters in South Africa and that they did the best that they could under the circumstances.”

The Mayor also reminded everyone that when one house or twenty houses are destroyed, it is a disaster and that when a family suffers, it is also a disaster. Mayor Booysen made a promise that the conditions that firefighters return to at the Eden DM Fire station’s dormitories and facilities will be improved, “starting today”. He was baffled by the fact that firefighters never complained about the space they returned to after hours of tireless work and pleaded with them to raise issues in the future.

Mr Monde Stratu, Eden DM Municipal Manager (MM), committed to the Mayor’s instruction of creating a long-overdue relaxing space for firefighters. He also announced that Mr Gerhard Otto, Eden DM Manager: Disaster Management, was nominated to form part of the National Disaster Management Centre’s task team responsible for preparing guidelines that will be used to address disaster relief initiatives in South Africa.

Mr Gerhard Otto gave a brief overview of the fires over the past seven months and stressed that firefighters hardly had a normal life. “Many firefighters in the Eden District had to sleep at work for days on end, leaving families alone and worried at home.” During December 2016, persistent dry weather conditions fuelled wildfires which affected large parts of Knysna, Mossel Bay, Hessequa and George. It is predicted that annually, 7% of the Eden District will burn.

For Mr Otto, the June 2017 inferno reminded him of the seriousness of the tragedy that struck the United States of America on 11 September 2001. The entire world watched in shock and horror how the tragedy unfolded. “Fortunately for the district, we were able to deploy 1106 firefighters from all over South Africa. Every single person’s efforts had an invaluable effect on lives and properties saved.”
Recent statistics about the disaster, are as follows:

  • Aircraft from various institutions dropped approximately 1700 water bombs. In total, this amounted to 2.9 million litres of water bombs.
  • Knysna lost 805 formal dwellings and Bitou, 80.
  • 48 Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses were destroyed.
  • 180 Informal structures were destroyed.
  • The wind damaged 456 homes in George.
  • Aerial firefighting costs amount to R13.5 million (SANDF R8 million, Working on Fire R5.5 million).
  • The has amounted to R4.2 billion in damages.
The Eden DM Mayoral Committee and Speaker salute firefighters and volunteers. Fltr are: Cllr Memory Booysen (Executive Mayor), Cllr Rosina Ruiters (Deputy Executive Mayor and Portfolio Chairperson: Local Economic Development), Cllr Khayalethu Lose (Portfolio Chairperson: Community Services), Cllr Joslyn Johnson (Portfolio Chairperson: Rural Development), Cllr Erica Meyer (Portfolio Chairperson: Strategic Services), Cllr Jerome Lambaatjeen (Portfolio Chairperson: Financial Services) and Cllr Mark Willemse, Speaker.
As a sign of respect for lives and property lost, Mr Emile Conrad, Eden DM Senior Firefighter(left) performed a beautiful saxophone rendition of “I was blind, but now I see” with Mr Deon van Wyk, Deputy Fire Chief (right) who rang the firefighter’s bell.
Shortly after firefighters performed a parade, Cllr Memory Booysen, Eden DM Executive Mayor and Mr Monde Stratu, Eden DM Municipal Manager awarded firefighters with medals and certificates. Pictured is Ms Michelle Smalberger, Senior Eden DM Firefighter, walking towards the Mayor and MM to receive a medal and certificate.
Cllr Memory Booysen, Eden DM Executive Mayor, promises that Eden DM Management will ensure that the dormitories are conducive to a relaxing and well-deserved environment for firefighters.

Mr Johan Brand, Eden DM Station Officer, who presented the Appreciation Programme, also made use of a slideshow to visually present how different areas in the Eden district have been affected since December 2016.  All firefighters received medals of honour and certificates. Special recognition was given to Mr Phillip Wilken, who voluntarily fought fires by working side-by-side with Mr Deon van Wyk, Eden DM Deputy Fire Chief. Mr Deon Van Wyk, rang a bell in tribute to efforts by all firefighters. While the bell rang, Eden DM Firefighter, Mr Emile Conrad performed a beautiful saxophone rendition of I was blind, but now I see.

Mr Clive Africa, Eden DM Executive Manager, Community Services, during his address said: “Out of the ashes, beauty has come forth in the form of hope, compassion, courage, kindness, forgiveness, and above all, the spirit of generosity by the people of South Africa and across the world”.

Firemen to compete at Ethekwini Grinder Challenge

25 to 26 August 2017

Four of Eden District Municipality’s (Eden DM’s) toughest firefighters are ready to compete in the “6th Fire and Emergency Services Fire-Fighter Competition” this coming weekend, after receiving a special invitation from eThekwini Fire and Emergency Services, due to Eden team’s successes of the past couple of years.

This Grinder Challenge will be hosted by eThekwini Fire and Emergency Services on 25 and 26 August 2017 at the Durban North Beach Amphitheatre.

This annual fitness challenge is specifically for fire-fighters, which must traverse a gruelling course of fire-fighting specific tasks/obstacles in the fastest time possible.  The overall winner will be crowned the “Toughest Fire-Fighter in Kwazulu-Natal”.

The Eden District Municipality Council, Management and Co-workers would like to extend best wishes to firefighters Emile Conrad, Branville Abrahams, Jano Minnie and Petrus Jordaan, who will represent the Eden district at the challenge.

Good luck to our Eden DM toughest Firefighters!

Wildfires in the Eden District

Only 3 fires left in the Eden district:

1. The Crags
2. Waboomskraal
3. Haarlem

The main focus of the Eden DM firefighters is to extinguish the Waboomskraal fire first and then to move on to the mountainous part of Haarlem where the fire is currently active. Unfortunately there’s no sign of rain on the Northern side of the Outeniqua Mountains.

WoF, SANParks, Bitou Municipality and MTO Forestry are fighting the fire in The Crags, Plettenberg Bay