Experts predict that Cape Town and surrounding areas in South Africa may experience their worst fire season as a result of the climate crisis and rising temperatures. Newlands, Hout Bay and Constantia are the areas most at risk.
Community-focused environmental non-profit, Parkscape explains that climate change is the biggest factor in the increase in fire risks.
“Climate crisis is probably the most significant driver of the risk – longer and hotter summers, drier winters, and prolonged periods of drought,” says Parkscape Chairperson, Nicky Schmidt.
Professor Coert Geldenhuys from Stellenbosch University’s Forest and Wood Science Department, said that because of the drier conditions people and properties will be more at risk than the environment.
“We should be very concerned about this because you have many natural areas in Cape Town that are very dry and a lot of fynbos in certain areas.
As the fire risks increase, our built environments are put in more danger. The Betty’s Bay and Knysna fires of 2017 are key examples of the damage forest fires can do to the built environment.
Schmidt suggests that urban residents who live within five kilometres of wildland or natural areas need to become more fire-wise.
“Creating defensible spaces around homes is critical. And this includes managing landscaping so as to reduce fuel load, keeping trees away from a house, planting fire-wise plants, keeping gutters clean, keeping flammable material away from a house, having nearby water sources and avoiding having thatch roofs. People also need to be far more careful with braais and equipment that can cause sparks,” Schmidt added.
She said firefighting services and organisations and voluntary teams were well-equipped and well-trained to fight fires, however, their capacity was very much dependent on the size of the fires.
“As we have seen with some of the big fires, local crews sometimes have to be supplemented with crews from elsewhere in the country.
“Local residents living in the wildland urban interface are likely less well-prepared, if prepared at all, to deal with fires,” she said