Last Wednesday, the foliage in Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) below Tafelberg Road was destroyed through a prescribed burn.
Residents in the nearby areas were notified about the fire by the TMNP. According to a TMNP statement, the use of fire is an essential component of the park’s ecological management and the removal of dry flammable material is required to reduce the likelihood of future uncontrolled wildfires.
“TMNP Fire Management Department and the SANParks Cape Research Centre have developed a scientific Prescribed Burning Plan for the entire park – this plan determines and prioritises areas for prescribed burning, taking into consideration veld age, rare and endangered species, alien clearing as well as protection of properties,” the statement says.
According to the City’s deputy mayor, Eddie Andrews, prescribed ecological burns are critical for the management of conservation areas because fire plays a critical part in ecosystems.
“Where fynbos and renosterveld vegetation becomes too old the vegetation can become thick, shading out many species, and shrubs start to die. The rejuvenating fire removes all the dead material, and stimulates seeds to germinate, and annuals and bulbs to flower. Fires at the right intervals not only rejuvenate vegetation but also remove the risk of wildfires, which are otherwise inevitable in the Western Cape,” said Mr Andrews.
He goes on to say that too many fires can cause slow-growing species to decline and decrease seed production, while infrequent fires can cause bush encroachment and extinction of local species, as well as dangerous wildfires.
“The Western Cape is a fire prone landscape and so it is not a matter of if a fire will occur at any given place, it is only a matter of when. The City’s Biodiversity Management Branch works in conjunction with City Fire to conduct fires safely and efficiently to minimise risks,” he said.
According to Jermaine Carelse, the spokesperson for the Fire and Rescue Service, it is probable that the weather had a positive effect on the occurrence of mountain fires, with above-average rainfall recorded in February and March.
“In terms of fire incidents, while there have not been many mountain fires per se, the Fire and Rescue Service did notice a marginal increase in vegetation fires between October 2022 and January 2023 (6 024) compared to the corresponding period the previous year (5 331),” said Mr Carelse.
“The incidents that have occurred along the city’s mountains this season have been contained very quickly, and for that we are incredibly grateful, however, the Fire and Rescue Service remains on high alert for any potential incidents,” he said.