Clarens News: August 2013
Clarens Fire Association – The first tests in using
OPEN ENDED FIRE BREAKS
This picture shows the fire breaks burning out during the early evening
Every few years the area around Clarens is threatened by serious wild fires. These fires are extremely difficult to suppress due to factors such as the extremely poor road access to many areas, and the mountainous terrain. To improve the chances of minimising the damage and risk to life and property, the Clarens Fire Association have been making strategic fire breaks in the area. This is extremely time consuming and costly, as it is done manually and involves the use of many people and much equipment.
New technology developed in Australia has now been tested in South Africa with considerable success, which allows for the burning of large fire breaks very quickly in inaccessible areas. Tests done in the Kruger National Park and Pilansberg area have shown good results and thanks to the assistance from Malcolm Procter of the Dept. of Agriculture and Bob Connolly and his team from Working on Fire, we have been able to conduct tests in our area. This was new as it involved mountains and very different climate and fuel (grasses and vegetation) types. Having a detailed understanding of fire behaviour in our area, as well as the correct climatic conditions is essential to the success of this type of fire break.
Tests were done on the evening of Monday 13 May, where a helicopter was used to drop small capsules which would ignite the vegetation close to the crest of the mountains from the western side of Golden Gate, all the way through to Fouriesburg. This ignition was done in the late afternoon to allow sufficient time for the veld to burn a wide enough fire break and then for nature to self-extinguish the fire during the night. The self-extinguishing of the fire is dependent on temperature, low wind, high enough relative humidity and correct condition of the veld. The picture below shows the mountains shortly after ignition. Over 90 percent of the distance ignited, extinguished during the night, with only a few areas requiring mopping up the next day. From these tests it is clear that with the lessons learnt it will be possible to use this technology to great advantage to better protect the entire area.
The picture below shows how most of the ignited area has self-extinguished with some smouldering areas requiring mop up where there is thick old veld! Should anybody require more information or would like to add comment please do not hesitate to contact either Rodney Wainwright on 083 680 7770 or Dirk Viljoen on 083 627 5656. Rodney Wainwright Clarens Fire Association.