Wild fires in the Western Cape are a very real issue, particularly during warmer and windier summer months. Throughout cooler autumn months, however, the experienced team from South African National Parks will be undertaking prescribed burns across the greater Table Mountain National park region, including the Cape of Good Hope section.
This year, burns will be taking place close to the Cape of Good Hope main entrance gate and around Cape Point for the first time in 100 years, and there may be an impact on visitors to Cape Point during this time.
When will the burns take place?
Due to the extensive precautions taken by SANParks it’s difficult to know the exact day the burns will be taking place, as ideal conditions need to be present in order to proceed. Temperatures must be less than 25°C, winds must be moderate, and light autumn rain must have fallen 2 to 3 days prior. Unless all of these conditions are met, the prescribed burn will not go ahead.
Signage will be clear in all affected areas, and SANParks officials will be on hand to direct traffic and ensure public safety where necessary.
Stay up to date on the decided burn times
SAN Parks and Cape Point will ensure that the date of the burn is communicated as extensively as possible, so as to minimise the impact on all affected parties.
The following social media channels will communicate the most up to date information regarding this:
Hikers using the trail network over this time will need to check in and out with the visitor centre at Buffelsfontein on 021 780 9204.
Why are prescribed burns necessary?
Many visitors and residents of Cape Town express concern about prescribed burns; however they play an integral role in the on-going rejuvenation of plant life, and for the safety of visitors. Fynbos is a fire-prone and fire-adapted form of vegetation, and thus prescribed burning forms an integral part of the ecological management of the park.
The primary reasons behind the burns are:
1) To remove the amount of fuel accumulated across the parks as a result of alien plant clearing operations
2) To rejuvenate the fire-adapted and fire-dependent fynbos vegetation
3) To form an essential part of control operations aimed at eliminating invasive alien plants
4) To reduce the likelihood of uncontrolled wildfires
You simply need to visit any of the affected areas following a prescribed burn to see how resilient the fynbos is – within a few weeks spectacular green shoots start re-emerging and plant life is miraculously rejuvenated for many more years to come.
Residents in surrounding areas
It’s important that residents in surrounding areas also take heed of this notice, and Park management will do their best to minimise any possible inconveniences to adjacent households. When the burn takes place, residents are advised to keep their windows shut, remove flammable items such as gas canisters from outside areas, and laundry should be taken inside to avoid smoke contamination.
The difference between a prescribed and wild fire
It’s often difficult to know the difference between a prescribed burn and a wild fire, however the most obvious marker is that no prescribed burn will ever take place on days with strong or gale-force winds, and they will not take place over weekends or holidays. Should you see a fire that does not reflect the above description, please contact the TMNP Fire Management Department at 021 689 7438/9.
For further enquiries, please contact Philip Prins, Fire Manager: TMNP at 021 6897438/9.
For more information on TMNP, please visit www.sanparks.org
Photographs of a prescribed burn in 2013, courtesy What’s The Point.