Pre-fire season preparation
Fire management is an important part of guaranteeing the safety of our property. In the past, Strawberry Hill Farm has experienced several fires that had the potential to cause significant damage. As a result, we've made it a point to plan for the fire season, which usually runs from November to March. This process includes implementing controlled burns. A controlled burn is the practice of planning and applying fire to a predefined area under precise climatic circumstances to accomplish a desired effect (Teie, C, 2003). Starting a controlled burn under ideal conditions is a safe way to prevent unwanted fires that may otherwise occur in dangerous conditions which could lead to uncontrolled, destructive fires.
There are several things to be considered when planning for the fire season, including the type of vegetation, the legal processes around fire, and not burning the land excessively. The use of controlled fire can assist in ensuring that our structures are secured from undesired fires. Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem, and we try to safely reflect this in our environment, without risking damage to structures and natural resources, including our small plantation.
Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa (FPASA)
The Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa (FPASA) was founded in 1973 to offer industry, trade, and society with specialized fire safety management technical and training services. Fire protection services essentially ensure that landowners follow all fire procedures and laws, making fire control a simpler task. We are delighted to be associated with the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, and we also collaborate closely with the Overberg Fire Protection Association (FPA).
Being a member of the FPA offers both direct and indirect benefits. For example, being a member of the FPA allows for the negotiation of fire break realignments between landowners. This will result in a cost reduction for members by not having to prepare firebreaks on all the cadastral boundaries. It also enhances the conservation value within the landscape by reducing the amount of firebreaks. This reduces the possibility of rapid erosion and disruption to natural veld and woodland. We chose to become a member of the FPA because it guarantees help in the case of extreme fire circumstances through the supply of trained fire fighting teams and management. It is also requirement that all GVB conservancy members are part of an FPA. We would advise all landowners to join their local FPA.
Fire breaks and maintenance
According to NV&FFA (section 13), a fire break should be wide enough to have a reasonable chance of preventing a wildfire from spreading to or from neighbouring land, it should not cause erosion, and obviously be free of flammable material. A fire break, in brief, serves as a line of defence and is a constructed barrier used to control fire. Strawberry Hill Farm has fire breaks strategically positioned across the property. When creating the fire breaks, we take into account several aspects, including our weather pattern, namely the wind direction, because our farm is prone to strong westerly winds.
In this manner, if we decide to perform a block burn or have unanticipated fires, we can use the fire break to access the spot of the fire and also use the break as an anchor line in controlling the fire. It is important to realize that fire breaks are critical for limiting fire spread. As a result, we have put a lot of effort into maintaining our fire breaks.
The maintenance procedure often includes the use of approved herbicides to keep our breaks open and in good condition. During this operation, we also eliminate invasive plants such as black wattle that have grown close to the fire break.
This year, the plan is to burn two portions of the farm to safeguard our property. The goal is to perform a block burn in these sections because they are adjacent to our main offices and other private property. The prescribed burn will be undertaken as a means of protecting the property in a case of unforeseen adjacent fires. Furthermore, certain parts are infected with alien species, and some were cleared the previous year, leaving them dry and very combustible on the ground. Before the actual fire, we will receive a burn permit through the FPA and district municipality. Once we have the go-ahead and confirmation that the conditions permit, prescribed burn will be performed, safely. The permission to burn granted by FPA, follows a procedure in which factors like weather are taken into consideration. This procedure of weather checking, is done on the day to ensure safety and successful burn on that day
Fire fighting tools and equipment’s
Strawberry Hill Farm is 200ha in size. According to FPA regulations, the requirement for this size property is that there should be at least one bakkie sakkie (min 500l). There is also other equipment on the farm, including hand tools, such as beaters to contemporary suction pumps capable of sucking water from dams. Just a brief explanation of the pumps: they may be mounted to our tractor alongside a tank in situations when the tractor cannot go closer to a water supply, such as muddy edges. A pipe from the pump may be extended over the water's edge to suck water into the tank; this is a very handy method of filling water tanks. Another advantage of such pumps is that they can release water at high pressure, which is critical for fighting fires
With the assistance of the Grootversbosch conservancy’s Fire Officer (Goliath Highburg “Oom Twakkie”) and the equipment guidelines stipulated in the FPA, Strawberry Hill Farm has sufficient fire tools and equipment in relation to its property size, and all tools and equipment have been thoroughly checked and serviced in preparation for the fire season. All tools and equipment will be placed in a shelter just next to our office, making it easily accessible in emergency situations.
Training and communication of fire crew
Training is crucial because it takes into account staff health and physical abilities before allocating them to prescribed fires. Other support staff should be in good health and have sufficient physical capabilities for the role or responsibilities they have been allocated (Furness, A. and Muckett, M, 2007), and this can only be achieved through fire safety training.
Secondly, training improves crew strength when dealing with an actual fire scenario, especially under stressful situations when people default to what was drilled into them. The more you train the better you become. We try our outmost best on the farm to make sure our team is fully fit and mentally prepared before the start of the fire season
Communication is another crucial component of safety. It is usually good to have someone more experienced present to take command and offer directions that will assist in defeating fire. When a fire starts on a property, the landowner is normally the fire boss until they delegate the fire management to a more experienced individual. On our farm, Aileen Anderson would be the fire boss, but she usually appoints Mr G Highburg (Oom Twakkie) to take responsibility as a fire boss, as he has years of experience fighting as a Fire Officer under Cape Nature.
Before a prescribed burn, Oom Twakkie is in charge of conducting a prefire briefing on site to ensure that everyone is aware of the safety concerns and instructions. He also describes how to operate the different fire devices securely, as well as any irregularities they may have, and emphasizes the necessity of following orders and staying in touch with the crew through an overhead line. Throughout the fire or prescribed burn, Oom Twakkie monitors the current fire condition and communicates with crew members and any neighbouring units.
Fire is an important part of conservation land management and we do everything to prevent unwanted, dangerous fires and keep our guests, staff and neighbours safe.
Furness, A. and Muckett, M., 2007. Introduction to fire safety management. Routledge.
Teie, William C. Fire manager's handbook on veld and forest fires: strategy, tactics and safety. South African Institute of Forestry, 2003.
Life in a forest in the mountains