Category: <span>Fire Fighting</span>

8 July 2021 Media Release: GRDM Council, Management and Staff bid their final farewell to Fire Chief Freddy Thaver

Media Release: GRDM Council, Management and Staff bid their final farewell to Fire Chief Freddy Thaver

08 July 2021
For immediate release

This morning, Council, Management and Staff of Garden Route District Municipality  (GRDM) bid their colleague, the late Fire Chief, Mr Freddy Thaver, farewell during a touching memorial services held by the Municipality at its Council Chambers in George. Mr Thaver passed away in George on Thursday, 1 July 2021 at the age of 53 after experiencing Covid-related complications.

Ms Louise Hoek, with her daughter (back), receiving the helmet of the departed Fire Chief, Mr Thaver, as token of appreciation for his selfless service rendered to the Garden Route district. With them in the back are: Municipal Manager, Mr Monde Stratu (left) and Mayor Memory Booysen (right).

Mr Thaver joined the GRDM on 1 April 2016, to lead the Fire Services Unit as Chief Fire Officer.  He owned diverse characteristics, from being a firm, decisive and strict leader and person, to being a father figure for many and always joyous and full of laughter.

During his eulogy at the event, Executive Mayor of GRDM, Alderman Memory Booysen, referred to Mr Thaver as an expert in his field.  He recalled an incident at one of the wildfires in Hessequa. He explained that the wildfire was of such a nature that it almost burned down the Joint Operating Centre (JOC).  “In a state of panic, farmers arrived at the JOC with ideas to contain the wildfires.  However, Freddy was determined and took a stance that the idea would not work”. He said that it was due to these firm attributes that Freddy was a unique and admirable Fire Chief.

Municipal Manager, Mr Monde Stratu, said that Thaver was no push-over. “He had principles and stood for what he believed in”. He also recalled many experiences with him and fellow firefighters, but up to this far he was not aware of anything that Mr Thaver said behind his back which he did not tell in his face. Adding to this Mr Stratu said: “It was always a marvel to watch him fight his battles. Through this, Mr Stratu highlighted: “He was passionate about his work, very strong-willed and very decisive about his positions”.

Ms Louise Hoek, fiancée of the late Mr Thaver, mentioned that he was a proud family man and that he was passionate about firefighting and saving lives. She also remembered how he fought for those who he dearly loved. “I will never forget the example he set. When I met him the first time, he was clearly presented as a proud man in uniform”. Adding to this, she said: “I never thought that today I would be paying tribute to his life at a memorial service, instead I thought we would have done our wedding vows around now”.  She concluded: “Despite of the heartbreak I am grateful for the opportunity to have met him and that we could be part of the life of this special human being”.

Mr Deon Stoffels, GRDM Station Commander, on behalf of the team members at the various GRDM fire stations, described Mr Thaver not only as a fire chief, but a father to the firefighters, a mentor and motivator.  “He was also a man with great respect for his career and others, disciplined and a person of integrity.  He furthermore had a high level of intellect relating to his profession. He had good interpersonal skills and was a hard-working fire chief, determined, but also funny with a unique sense of humour”. The GRDM Riversdale team remembered Mr Thaver as a highly valued and respected member of the Fire Services Department, as well as GRDM. “The effects of his passing are already felt”. Further to this, they said, “Mr Freddy Thaver was a wonderful Chief who understood the meaning of the word ‘leader’. He was always focused on the good of this Fire Services Unit, rather than of his own benefit”.

Apart from only focusing on managing the firefighting team, Mr Thaver made many contributions to this department. The female firefighters recalled the efforts of Mr Thaver in relation to their needs in the service.  “We could do anything that we put our minds to, because we had our Chief’s full support – we will miss him for all his efforts in ensuring that we live our full potential in our profession”.

The service was directed by Mr Clive Africa, Executive Manager for Community Services, responsible for fire services at GRDM.

Mr Thaver was laid to rest in at his home town in Durban, on Sunday, 4 July 2021.

“Rest in Peace Freddy Thaver.

We as Council and Staff, most of all the Firefighters, will sorely miss you”.

ENDS

2 July 2021 Media Release: GRDM Fire Chief passes away

Media Release: GRDM Fire Chief passes away

02 July 2021
For immediate release

It was a heavy and sad atmosphere at the offices of Garden Route District Municipality this morning during a pray session, after councillors and staff were informed about the sudden passing of their dear colleague, Fire Chief, Mr Freddy Thaver.

Mr Thaver passed away on Thursday, 1 July 2021 in George after a short illness.

During the prayer session the Municipal Manager, Mr Monde Stratu, conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and all his colleagues. During the session he also urged staff to continue to be extra cautious during this 3rd wave of the pandemic and to take extra care of themselves and their families in the fight against the pandemic.

A virtual memorial service will be hosted by the municipality during next week – date yet to be confirmed. The late Mr Thaver will be laid to rest at his home town in Durban on Sunday, 4 July 2021.

A full statement will be shared with the public in due course.

ENDS

4 May 2021 Media Release: GRDM Council and Staff acknowledge Firefighters on International Firefighters Day

Media Release: GRDM Council and Staff acknowledge Firefighters on International Firefighters Day

For Immediate Release
4 May 2021

This day, 4 May, marks an important day on the calendar of firefighters all around the world, especially for the role they fulfil when protecting the lives of people, assets and livestock. On this day we remember all their efforts when they have to risk their lives to protect others.

While we all are fast asleep at night, they ensure our safety by protecting us from deadly blazes that could destroy our lives in an instant and when they are unable to save people and/or properties, they also feel the pain and heartache experienced by those families. We must recognise that firefighers also have families of their own who are burdened with the thought of losing one of their loved ones.

Simultaneously, with the Covid-19 pandemic still in our midst, the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) firefighting team plays a vital role in disinfecting various public places and facilities, to combat the deadly virus from spreading faster through the Garden Route. We are grateful towards all firefighters who participate in the initiative while they aim for a safer, clean and Covid-free environment.

Lastly, particularly on this day, we remember and pay tribute to all firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty – may their souls continue to rest in peace.

We respect and salute you all, every GRDM firefighter and volunteer!

Thank you for your dedicated and selfless service!

From Council, Management and Staff at Garden Route District Municipality.

30 April 2021 Media Release: Adaptive Capacity Facility Climate Resilient Human Settlements Pilot Programme to be project managed by the GRDM

Media Release: Adaptive Capacity Facility Climate Resilient Human Settlements Pilot Programme to be project managed by the GRDM

For immediate release
30 April 2021

Adaptive Capacity Facility Climate Resilient Human Settlements Pilot Programme to be project managed by the GRDM

The Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) is one of three (3) district municipalities that were selected to be the beneficiaries of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) Adaptive Capacity Facility (ACF): Climate Resilient Human Settlements Pilot Programme. The Government of Flanders will fund this programme through its Country Strategy Paper (CSPIII) over five years. The funds will mainly be used to implement climate change adaptation projects that build human adaptive capacity.

The programme intends to select projects across three (3) typologies. These include urban settlements, peri-urban settlements, and rural settlements. These settlement typologies fall under the banner of “testing climate-resilient human settlements”.

After an extensive two-day site visit investigation by DEFF from 22 – 26 March 2021, the high fire risks within the GRDM and the threat of these fire risks to vulnerable communities were identified as a focus area for a project that will be funded as part of the programme.

The first co-creation workshop (one of three planned workshops) was arranged in Knysna to workshop possible fire resilient projects and challenges. The workshop included all the key stakeholders within the project area and the participation of some vulnerable community leaders/members.

The day before the workshop, on 23 March 2021, DEFF’s videographer visited some key fire risk areas in the Garden Route to document the conditions and challenges on the ground.

At the workshop, various presenters provided information on the project focus areas, fire risks and impacts within the GRDM, as well as current and future climatic changes and predictions on what this will mean for the fire risks to vulnerable communities going forward.

The workshop also included conveying the traumatic experiences of stakeholders such as the authorities and vulnerable community members during the 2017/18 Knysna/Plettenberg Bay fires.

Second Workshop – 23 April 2021

From 21 to 23 April 2021, the GRDM, DEFF/ACF and critical stakeholders had a fruitful second workshop to have more detailed discussions on priority interventions to be unpacked into projects. The workshop outcomes included the following priority intervention categories:

  • Ecosystem-based fuel load management: To include block burning, fire breaks, alien clearing as well as an initial follow-up; fire-scaping; access /escape route management;
  • Early fire detection and monitoring: cameras and towers;
  • Training: Development of a training academy, train the trainer, “training – to be wildfire ready”, basic land management principles; workshops on legislative requirements.

During the two workshop engagements, all the stakeholders agreed upon the following project criteria. The GRDM will lead the project, and although the initial idea was that the interventions would be geographically focused in the Knysna area, particular emphasis will be on the areas identified as high-risk areas in the recently completed macro fire risk assessment by the GRDM.

The project will address fire risk from a climate change adaptation perspective. The project interventions must have a robust interface with human settlements (meaning that we need to consider the project interventions’ impacts on the selected human settlements, and we need to take into consideration the needs of that human settlement/s);

The project interventions will be located within an urban setting. This does not mean that the settlements need to be formal dwellings and “high-income” communities; on the contrary, grassroots communities vulnerable urban settlements will be the primary target audience. This means that informal settlements and forest communities with strong links to urban areas will be targeted.

 

ENDS

12 March 2021 Weather Alert: Severe Weather Alert: Veld Fires

Weather Alert: Severe Weather Alert: Veld Fires

Please find included the Impact Based Warning for the Western Cape and Namaqua Region of Northern Cape:

HAZARD:  Veld Fire Conditions

ALERT LEVEL:  Red (L10)

AFFECTED MUNICIPALITIES: Beaufort West, Hantam, Kannaland, Karoo Hoogland, Khâi-Ma, Laingsburg, Oudtshoorn, Prince Albert

VALID FROM (SAST):  12/03/21 08h00

VALID TO (SAST):  12/03/21 08h00

DISCUSSION: Weather conditions which include hot temperatures and fresh winds might result in the development of runaway and veld/bush fires.

Impact: Conditions are such that the FDI index is above 75. Under these conditions fires may develop and spread rapidly resulting in damage to property and possible loss of human and/or animal life.

Instruction: All personnel and equipment should be removed from the field. Fire teams, labour and equipment are to be placed on full stand-by. A first sign of smoke, every possible measure should b*e taken in order to bring the fire under control in the shortest possible time.

SOUTH AFRICAN WEATHER SERVICE
Cape Town Weather Office
2nd Floor: Oval Office Park
Cape Town Int airport
Freight Road
Matroosfontein
Cape Town

E-Mail: factfc@weathersa.co.za
Tel: 021 935 5700

>>>Legal notice:<<<

“This warning from SA Weather Service must be communicated as received and may not be altered under any circumstance.

It must be forwarded or communicated in its entirety and no portion hereof may be replicated or copied and distributed.”

Report any weather related incidents to the Garden Route Disaster Management Centre at:
044 805 5071.

22 January 2021 Weather Alert: Severe Weather Alert: Impact Based Weather Warnings for Western Cape and Namaqua

Weather Alert: Severe Weather Alert: Impact Based Weather Warnings for Western Cape and Namaqua

The South African Weather Service has issued the following Impact Based Severe Weather Forecast:

HAZARD: Veld Fire Conditions

Alert Level: Red(L10)

Affected Municipalities: Beaufort West, Breede Valley, Cederberg, Hantam, Kamiesberg, Kannaland, Karoo Hoogland, Laingsburg, Langeberg, Matzikama, Nama Khoi, Prince Albert and Witzenberg.

Valid From (SAST): 22/01/2021 – 01h00

Valid To (SAST): 23/01/2021 – 18h00

Discussion: Weather conditions which include hot temperatures, fresh to strong winds and low humidity might result in the development of runaway and veld/bush fires.

Impact: Conditions are such that the FDI index is above 75. Under these conditions, fires may develop and spread rapidly resulting in damage to property and possible loss of human and/or animal life.

Instruction: All personnel and equipment should be removed from the field. Fire teams, labour and equipment are to be placed on full standby. At the first sign of smoke, every possible measure should be taken in order to bring the fire under control in the shortest possible time.

Report any severe weather-related incidents to the Garden Route Disaster Management Centre at telephone number 044 805 5071.

Legal notice:
“This warning from SA Weather Service must be communicated as received and may not be altered under any circumstance.  It must be forwarded or communicated in its entirety and no portion hereof may be replicated or copied and distributed.”

21 January 2021 Weather Alert: Severe Weather Alert: Impact Based Weather Warning for Western Cape and Namaqua

Weather Alert: Severe Weather Alert: Impact Based Weather Warning for Western Cape and Namaqua

The South African Weather Service has issued the following Impact Based Severe Weather Forecast:

HAZARD: Veld Fire Conditions

Alert Level: Red(L10)

Affected Municipalities: Beaufort West, Breede Valley, Cederberg, Drakenstein, Hantam, Kamiesberg, Kannaland, Karoo Hoogland, Laingsburg, Matzikama, Nama Khoi, Prince Albert, Swartland and Witzenberg.

Valid From (SAST): 21/01/2021 – 08h00

Valid To (SAST): 22/01/2021 – 20h00

Discussion: Weather conditions which include hot temperatures, fresh to strong winds and low humidity might result in the development of runaway and veld/bush fires.

Impact: Conditions are such that the FDI index is above 75. Under these conditions, fires may develop and spread rapidly resulting in damage to property and possible loss of human and/or animal life.

Instruction: All personnel and equipment should be removed from the field. Fire teams, labour and equipment are to be placed on full standby. At the first sign of smoke, every possible measure should be taken in order to bring the fire under control in the shortest possible time.

Report any severe weather-related incidents to the Garden Route Disaster Management Centre at telephone number 044 805 5071.

Legal notice:
“This warning from SA Weather Service must be communicated as received and may not be altered under any circumstance.  It must be forwarded or communicated in its entirety and no portion hereof may be replicated or copied and distributed.”

26 August 2020 Media Release: Garden Route District Municipality and stakeholders bump up efforts to extinguish peat-wetland fires

Media Release: Garden Route District Municipality and stakeholders bump up efforts to extinguish peat-wetland fires

For immediate release
26 August 2020

On 26 June 2020, the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) Fire & Rescue Services commenced with efforts to finally extinguish peat fires in the Garden Route district. One at the Kamma River in Bonniedale, Mossel Bay and the other at Weyers River in Bergfontein, Albertinia. Peat-wetland fires pose a threat to ecosystems by releasing smoke and heat through soil and vegetation, compromise wetlands.

Mr Deon Stoffels, Station Officer: Fire Safety and Training from GRDM at the peat fire in Bonniedale.

The response from the GRDM Fire & Rescue Service officials was first to assess and demarcate the exact extent of the peat fires. According to Mr Deon Stoffels, GRDM Fire Station Officer for Fire Safety and Training, smoke was evident on arrival – in small pockets appearing from underground”. This necessitated follow-up site visits on 29 June and 02 July 2020 whereby thermal images were captured with the municipality’s Thermal Imaging Drone to map and confirm the underground fire activity.

The immediate role-players involved in the response and planning were GRDM Fire & Rescue Services, Department Environmental Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Working for Wetlands, Cape Nature and the respective landowners.

Mr Johan Brand, Station Officer from GRDM Fire and Rescue Services holding one of the tools utilised in the testing and assessment of the sub-surface layers.

The above-mentioned site visits were followed up in middle July for the purpose to capture more thermal imagery to estimate the extent of the spread after two periods of moderate to heavy rainfall. Following the assessment, it was confirmed that the spread of the fire continued.

On the 28 and 29 July 2020, all role-players engaged in on-site visits and the peatland specialist from DEFF, with the assistance of representatives of GRDM Fire & Rescue and Cape Nature, performed assessments and tests. “These were done to determine the full extent of the peat fires, e.g. depth of underground fire activity, condition of the wetland, as well as the environmental and ecological impact of the fire and if continues, the fire activity,” Mr Stoffels, said.  After assessments and tests were completed it was jointly agreed that an Offensive Strategy would be the most practicable approach to deal with the underground and/or peat fires which include;

  • preventing the spread of fire;
  • fighting and extinguishing the fire; and
  • protection of life and property against the fire or other threatening danger:
  • In this case also, the protection of the environment against the fire and other threats.

The strategy will assist in mitigating adverse impacts on the environment, as well as aid in protecting and sustaining the biodiversity of wetlands. Role-players such as GRDM Fire & Rescue, the landowners, Cape Nature, Working for Wetlands, Southern Cape Fire Protection Association and Working on Fire were involved from beginning of the process, however the GRDM Fire and Rescue Services and the landowners started with their operations on 19 August 2020 and Cape Nature on 21 August 2020.

According to Dr Nina Viljoen, Manager for Environmental Management as GRDM, peatlands are present in a third of wetlands worldwide, which contribute a range of ecosystem services. The most pronounced services are biodiversity conservation, water quality and climate regulation. The addition of peat to a wetland allows these wetlands to have additional ecosystem services. She added: “The unique properties of peat allow for a variation in the dynamics of the ecosystem services provided.  This makes peatlands a major contributor to wetlands’ increased capacity for climate, water quality and quantity regulation, biodiversity conservation and waste assimilation”.

Areas in the Garden Route district affected by the wildfire. Thermal images captured with the Thermal Imaging Drone of Garden Route District Municipality.

Dr Viljoen further explained: “The destruction of peatlands by means of fires causes a visible and immediate degradation in the integrity of the aquatic ecosystems downstream of peatlands. This causes major changes to change the hydrology of the peatland system, as well as rivers and associated ecosystem health. Compared to global abundance, she said: “Peatlands are an extremely scarce ecosystem type in South Africa, with only 1% of total wetland area being peatlands. It provides water quality (water purification and waste assimilation) function which causes peatlands to demonstrate a very significant ecosystem services value”.

What is peat?

Peat, also known as turf is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter. Peat forms in wetland conditions, where flooding or stagnant water obstructs the flow of oxygen from the atmosphere, slowing the rate of decomposition.

Peatlands cover approximately 3% of the earth’s surface. The global carbon stored in peat is estimated to be about 500 billion tonnes, which is approximately 30% of the world’s soil carbon. Furthermore, peat stores 10% of the world’s fresh water”.

Peatlands are more valuable than normal wetlands due to the presence of peat stocks within them. Based on the services evaluated and the available data, the value of the cumulative services provided by South African peatlands was estimated to be as high as R174 billion, expressed as an ecological infrastructure value. It is therefore of the utmost importance to protect these type of wetlands against destruction, and to assess the causes of these two identified peat fires in the Garden Route district.

How do peat fires occur?

Peat fires can occur sporadically in smaller peatland systems due to system dehydration and desiccation brought on by either drought (the presence of a heat source), localised draining or flow interruption by roads – it smoulders. These smouldering fires can burn undetected for very long periods of time (months, years, and even centuries) propagating in a creeping fashion through the underground peat layer.

The current drought in the region and associated peat fires bear testimony to the vulnerability of these ecosystems to the variability in our climate patterns which can result in drought-induced peat fires in the Western Cape.

ENDS

Media Release: Ecological grief sets in as the lockdown highlights the looming plight of greater humanity – the destruction of our environment

Media Release: Ecological grief sets in as the lockdown highlights the looming plight of greater humanity – the destruction of our environment

For Immediate Release
26 May 2020

“In an ongoing series of debates with experts in various fields, the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) seeks to highlight aspects related to COVID-19 demands on humanity, and that which is unfolding as climate change steadily brings about corresponding and irreversible changes with daunting challenges,” says Cobus Meiring of the GREF Secretariat.

The matter of the fairly new concept of ecological grief and human behaviour, which was instigated by COVID-19, highlights the looming plight of greater humanity: the destruction of our environment.

According to Hanna Kotze, an organisational culture consultant and clinical social worker, climate change brings an unknown threat to normality in terms of how humans will experience the environment, and it will do so in many respects that are more often than not difficult to comprehend or even believe. In as much as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is invisible, but the threat is very real and present, so is climate change, and humanity sense the danger, which in turn brings about a constant anxiety.

Says Kotze, “Ecological grief is a relatively new term for the subconscious but the concept embraces the collective grief humanity experiences when witnessing and experiencing loss of biodiversity and the destruction of the natural environment.”

“Natural disasters with their roots in climate change, such as the recent Knysna wildfire disaster, catastrophic drought in South Africa, Hurricane Katrina in the USA, wildfires in Australia and Europe, and the Idai tropical cyclone in Mozambique are all examples where humanity suffers from ecological grief, which no doubt impacts on the emotional well-being of nations affected,” explains Kotze.

“Many of us may feel paralysed by panic over climate change and overwhelmed by the pace and scale of ecological losses. Mourning nature does a great service by giving a name to this grief, setting us all within a community of others who mourn alongside us, and by guiding us to respond not with despair but with hope and courage”.

“Hopefully, the advent of COVID-19 will have the right kind of response in how we ensure a more sustainable future in South Africa and the world, and planning for what is to come will go a long way in ensuring just that,” concludes Kotze.

Humanity feels overwhelmed by the sheer destruction of our environment brought about by increasingly devastating natural disasters with their roots in a changing climate. (Photo: SCLI)

The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a public platform for environmental management entities in the Southern Cape, and a regional think tank on climate change mitigation and adaption.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Chair of the Garden Route Environmental Forum Secretariat

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

 

Hanna Kotze: Organisational Culture Consultant, Clinical Social Worker and Trauma Counselling

Mobile Number: 084 341 0059

Email Address: hanna@hannakotze.co.za