Overbergís fire associations to be appraised

Fire Protection Associations (FPAs) in the Overberg are to be studied and assessed, as part of the Fynbos Fire Project. This Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project aims to reduce fire risk, by building capacity in FPAs. Experts now hope to determine over the course of the next year what FPA models will prove most effective for the region.

According to Tessa Oliver of the FFA Group, which is implementing the project, current FPAs will be looked at to see why some are successful and others arenít. She was speaking at the Overberg District Fire Working Group, held on Thursday 12 June in Bredasdorp. She said, ďThe Overberg is seen as a key area. This project will aim to fill a funding gap and look at the financial sustainability for FPAs, assessing how FPAs can go into the future and remain viable.Ē

It has been proposed that all Overberg-based FPAs join together to become one area-wide FPA. The proposal has received mixed reactions to date. Given the opportunity to do a cost-benefit analysis through the Fynbos Fire Project study, the meeting agreed to put the final decision on whether to amalgamate into one FPA on hold for the moment. The District Fire Working Group will discuss the proposal again at the next meeting, due mid-September, in order to give the projectís experts an opportunity to start the study.

Reinard Geldenhuys, Head: Fire and Disaster Management at the Overberg District Municipality, encouraged landowners and FPA members to participate in the study. This will ensure the researchers understand the specific needs and circumstances of the individual FPAs. FPAs in the area include the Bredasdorp Vlakte FPA, the Hagelkraal FPA and the Haasvlakte FPA, among others.

Oliver said FPAs are likely to prove to be the most effective vehicle for managing fire, in conjunction with fire services. Itís hoped that through the Fynbos Fire Project, all landowners in the entire Fynbos Biome will ultimately be represented on an FPA. The project implementers are hoping to raise skills levels within FPAs, and assist them to become financially sustainable.

As part of the project, more weather stations will be put up to better predict weather that is conducive to runaway veld fires. New field terminals will also provide updated satellite data, which will allow fires to be spotted early. Project researchers will also deal directly with insurers to determine with them when fire damage will be covered by insurance.

Landowners and other stakeholders involved in fire are now invited through the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) to attend the following Overberg District Fire Working Group, to give their input on the best options for FPAs in the Overberg, and to work with the Fynbos Fire Project researchers. The following meeting will be held on 19 September.

For more information on the meeting or the Fynbos Fire Project, please contact Reinard Geldenhuys on 028 425 1690, or email rgeldenhuys@odm.org.za.

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