Franschhoek blaze ‘backburn’ tactic underway to protect town

Solms Delta, Franschhoek, 06 February 2016jbdodane via flickr
By Bloomberg
21 Feb 2019 0

Firefighters in the Franschhoek mountains have changed their strategy to keep the fire away from the town because of changed winds by doing a "backburn" from the Franschhoek Pass to the fire, the Cape Winelands District Municipality said on Thursday night.

“The pass will serve as a firebreak while helicopters and other vehicles will create a wet line to prevent the backburn from burning out of control. The Franschhoek Pass will be closed until further notice,” the municipality said.

This was after the Cape Winelands District Municipality’s fire services and its partners, the Winelands Fire Protection Association and CapeNature, changed their approach as a result of a South Easter whipping through the area and the flames encroaching on the town. According to the fire service’s Facebook notice, this tactic worked in 2010 when a fire with similar conditions burnt in the area which is associated with wines and literary festivals.

The fire has already destroyed 5 472ha of veld in 96 hours, but 169 staffers and 25 fire brigade vehicles have been working to put it out.

Fire services asked that people not enter the affected areas, but also thanked the community of Franschhoek for the food, water, equipment and manpower it has offered.

Some of the crews had to hike in with their supplies and firefighters had to stop the fire from jumping to farmland and crops.

Some people were also evacuated as a precaution due to the smoke. DM