The wildfire time bomb is exploding – and there’s not much anybody can do about it except get out of the way.
Data compiled by experts shows an alarming upsurge in the frequncy and severity of firestorms of the kind that ripped through Knysna in 2017 and the Overberg this month.
There has been a similar increase in firestorms in the summer rainfall area. The increase is the result of a cocktail of population growth, alien vegitation and gaps in fire management policy, experts say. Recent studies also point to the impact of climate change on fire intensity and frequency.
The Sunday Times recently esablished that:
- There has been an alarming increase in fires in Western
Cape wilderness areas, with the past three years recording
the highest freqency in CapeNature’s 90-year-old fire
- The upsurge coincides with an increase in “fuel load” –
overgrown areas that pose a grave fire hazard.
Highly flammable alien vegetation, such as pine trees, is
spreading out of managed plantation and threatening
- Despite numerous warnings and studies, municipalities are
largely unable to cope with the scale of the problem and
clear the high-risk areas.
Authorities in Knysna and Hermanus were warned about potentially devastating fires prior to the disasters there.
The problem is urben encroachment into wilderness areas and a decrease in the number of prescribed burns – managed fires used to clear overgrown areas.
Without effective buffer zones, towns are increasingly at risk of catastrophic firestorms that are unstoppable in severe wind conditions.
Article by Bobby Jordan.