St Francis fires – not out of the woods yet – KM

firefighters taking a break

Photo by Bev Mortimer of some firefighters taking a short rest at the St Francis Bay fire station after fighting fires yesterday.

Following a couple of hot sports yesterday afternoon and this morning, particularly far west of Rebelsrus, helicopters including the army ones were used to water bomb the relevant areas.

Firefighters on the ground were also hard at work yesterday and today fighting fires. The bombing proved effective and Kouga Municipality announced at lunch time today the St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis fires are now ‘under control’.

This follows nine days of relentless and beastly fires driven by beastly winds  in the St Francis area. And on Friday last week Kouga Municpality agreed to ask the EC Disaster Management Centre to have St Francis declared a ‘Disaster Area,’ a decision that has to be taken by the premier of the Eastern Cape.  

If the application is approved it could mean that St Francis would receive provincial funding to fight the fires with more resources such as additional firefighters and helicopters.

“This is the first time we have this status since Saturday, 23 January, when the fire started,” the municipality said in its announcement today,  adding that the fire situation is being monitored. “We still have choppers on standby in case of the unknown.

“Fire is unpredictable and we have to be ready for any eventuality. So we are not totally out of the woods yet. “We still have ground crew – one team focusing on the Rebelsrus area and the other on the side of the airfield. The teams are busy with mop up operations. ”

The municipality also advises residents, in particular Cape St Francis residents, to cut vegetation (trees especially) that grow against the walls of their houses to prevent their homes catching fire. This assists firefighters with access around the house in case of fires breaking out.

The municipality also asks farmers in the area to start creating good fire breaks on their properties to prevent a quick spread of fire during times of emergency.
The Fire Department can be contacted for advice, the municipality said. It added that at a later stage it will express its gratitude to all involved in fighting the fire. “But the work is ongoing so we wait.”

Edited by St Francis Chronicle

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