Fire season in Cape Town extends from November to May and the dry and windy summers create the ideal conditions for wildfires to occur. The TMNP has a team of dedicated fire-fighters and firefighting volunteers on standby during the entire season.
Fire management in the TMNP is made complex by the fact that as biodiversity conservators Park Management must recognise that fact that fire is an integral part of the fynbos ecosystem while respecting the need to protect life and property on the urban edge.
There are various management interventions undertaken to meet both needs as well as various agencies responsible for Fire Management.
Fire Management Organisations
TMNP manages 25 000 hectares of the 30 000 hectares that make up the Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment (CPPNE). The remaining 5 000 hectares is a mix of private, City and State-owned land.
The City of Cape Town and TMNP are responsible for the management of fires in the area and have a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) that defines their areas of responsibility and working relationship.
Table Mountain National Park is responsible for managing fire in the Park and on the urban edge and will assist the City in fighting veld and forest fires on municipal land.
TMNP has 76 field staff available to fight fires but during the fire season we hire 70 trained contract fire fighters to assist Park staff in fire fighting with 40 on 24 hour standby duty through out the fire season.
The City of Cape Town aims to protect life and property from fire within the Cape Town Metropolitan area and will assist the TMNP in protecting houses on the urban edge and in fighting fires that have started in road reserves or municipal land that have spread to the Park.
Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) is a volunteer organization that assists TMNP with fighting and securing wildfires in the park. These firefighters are on call anytime night or day, all year round. The VWS runs from bases in Newlands and South Peninsula. To support, join or find out more about the VWS please visit their website:
Working on Fire was started to assist government and private organizations in combating wildfires. TMNP went into partnership with Working on Fire (WoF) Programme in 2004 which gives us access to the assistance of additional ground crew and equipment, such as helicopters.
Fire Protection Association: Appointed as Fire Protection Officer TMNP’s Manager of Fire and Technical Services, the Cape Peninsula Fire Protection Association (CPFPA) was formed to prevent, predict, manage and extinguish veldfires. Membership is voluntary for private landowners but is compulsory for owners of state and local authority land.
Fire Management Interventions
- are a means of access for personnel and equipment during wild fire suppression,
- serve as a control line where a fire can be attacked, for example, by setting a backburn.
- reduce fuel loads
- rejuvenate fire-adapted and fire dependent vegetation
- help in invasive alien plant control
These are burns set by fire managers under controlled conditions. In Cape Town they are generally planned for March and April once the weather is favourable: no or little wind and a good amount of moisture is present.
TMNP also needs to take account the risk of being on the urban edge – if a prescribed burn escapes it can result in expensive damage to properties and infrastructure.
Alien plant clearing can result in the accumulation of large quantities of fuel in the form of dead brush, usually stacked in heaps. These stacks are burnt under moist conditions usually between June and August.
There are many alien plants that grow in the TMNP. Aliens burn with more intensity than fynbos because they tend to be woody with high levels of volatile oils. If unplanned fires occur in old stands of alien plants the fire can get so hot it will sterilize the soil resulting in poor fynbos recovery. Alien fueled fires are also difficult to contain.
For this reason, among others, the TMNP runs an intensive alien clearing programme funded by Working for Water.
Causes of Fire
- Human action: Mistakes such as children playing with fire crackers, flares, cigarette butts and airborne coals from braai’s and home fires.
- Paraffin, gas and other spirit fueled cooking equipment.
- Natural processes such as: lightning, iron-rich rocks falling and igniting dry, fine grasses.
- Arson. This is the deliberate lighting of a fire by an individual with the intent of causing damage.
Report a Fire
- Hotline: 086 110 6417
- City’s Regional Fire Control: +27 (0)21 590 1900
- Newlands Fire Base: +27 (0)21 689 7438