MARKtoe! September 2014 Uitgawe 9 - Page 32

LANDBOU Management and Fire Brigade Services’ aerial response initiative, which this year provided fixed wing aerial bombers. These have proven highly effective in providing rapid assistance to ground crews containing wild fire ignitions. Furthermore, the establishment of active Fire Protection Associations throughout the entire Province means that there is increased awareness among the public, and in particular, amongst landowners. There are more firebreaks, and management is taken more seriously. So, just how unusual was this past fire season? The El Niño - La Niña oscillation Those weather watchers wishing to see for themselves just how staggering the data is, need only navigate to the following website: http://www.weathersa.co.za/ climate/historical-rain-maps, courtesy of the South African Weather Service (SAWS). People involved in the field of veld fire management are used to a summer season of fire-fighting as veld fires spread throughout the mountains and the dry fynbos vegetation. This season was very different. Tony Marshall, programme manager for fire at CapeNature, indicates that this past season has seen less than half the number of fires experienced in previous years. Not only that, but the area burnt equated to only 10% of that burnt during the previous fire season (2012/2013). Tony is however cautious not to ascribe the mild fire season to good rainfall alone. A number of other factors could have contributed, he says. Much of the protected land managed by CapeNature is comprised of young veld that has yet to reach maturity. Staff have been trained, and are equipped, to respond rapidly to wildfire ignitions in these sensitive areas. They are ably supported by the Western Cape Disaster A study of die Western Cape’s rainfall records stretching back to the middle of the 1800’s does indicate that some seasons are “quieter” than others. There appears to be a repeat of “quieter” years on a cycle ranging from 7 to 10 years. But just how variable this last season has been w