SA to host 2011 world fire conference

SA’s status as a leader in FIGHTING AND controlling wildfires has been confirmed with the announcement that the country has been selected to host the Fifth International Wildland Fire Conference (Wildfire) to be held in 2011.

This announcement was made at this year’s conference which was held in Seville, Spain, where over 1 500 delegates from 88 countries attended. According to Evelyn Holtzhausen, spokesperson for SA’s government-supported Working on Fire (WoF) programme, the conference is held under the auspices of the United Nations and the European Commission, and participants are representatives from governmental and civil agencies from all over the world.

“Hosting the conference will be a big honour and will allow SA to showcase our fire-fighting programmes,“ said WoF’s general manager Johan Heine. “It will probably be held in Limpopo where delegates would be able to see the impact of wildfires on vegetation similar to that found elsewhere in Africa and around the world.” The conference will be held under the auspices of AfriFireNet, headed in SA by WoF, which was also a ­founding ­member of the network and was formed in 2003 to develop an integrated national fire prevention system and wildfire fighting capacity.

WoF has a budget of R47,3 million and also incorporates a job ­creation component with ­firefighters being recruited from marginalised communities and put through extensive training programmes to equip them with wild veld and forest firefighting skills. WoF provides firefighting services to a wide variety of government and private organisations, and has over 50 fire bases around the country. “Through the National Disaster Management Centre, we supply helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to supplement local aerial firefighting efforts. The programme was established under the umbrella of the Expanded Public Works Programme underpinned by the National Veld and Forest Act of 1998 and the Disaster Management Act of 2002,” Holtzhausen explained. – Lloyd Phillips