Lions River FPA on red alert

April 30, 2010

The Lions River FPA is one of 15 FPAs in KZN that is spearheading rural fire management and prevention with more resources and better organisation than ever before. The Lions River FPA is one of 15 FPAs in KZN that is spearheading rural fire management and prevention with more resources and better organisation than ever before.

Lions River FPA

Lions River FPO Bobby Hoole (second right) and
the WoF fire fighting team.

 

The LRFPA, which was established in 2005 in terms of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act 101 of 1998, covers the uMngeni Municipality which includes the farming areas of Hilton, Birnamwood, Merrivale, Karkloof, Currys Post, Mount West, Tweedie, Lions River, Dargle, Lidgetton, Balgowan, Nottingham Rd, Fort Nottingham, Lower Loteni and Boston.

The area of operations is predominantly undulating agricultural grasslands used mainly for grazing and cropping, as well as large tracts of high risk timber plantations.

The LRFPA employs a full-time Fire Protection Officer, Bobby Hoole, who said that key partners include:

  • Working on Fire
  • uMngeni Municipality
  • KZN UFPA, which co-ordinates fire management activities across the province, and manages the aerial support wing based at Shafton near Howick.
  • Firehawk, which monitors the area of operation 24/7 via strategically placed surveillance cameras feeding into a central control room at Currys Post.

Bobby said that 60% of the approximate 1 000-odd landowners in the area are members of the LRFPA. This includes private farmers and the corporate forestry companies like Sappi, Mondi, Merensky, Masonite and NCT.

The LRFPA has been very successful in getting local stakeholders involved. The uMngeni Municipality is a member, and provides funding for six permanent Lions River FPA fire fighters. Through the partnership agreement with WoF, members can hire the WoF team as well as the Lions River FPA team at cost, to assist with burning firebreaks or mopping up after fires. Off-season, they are used to do alien weed control.

Sappi has donated a bakkie to the LRFPA, Mondi Shanduka a bakkie sakkie unit, the uMngeni Municipality has provided a fully equipped 4X4 and the Lions River FPA have two fully equipped trailer units, as well as water tankers for members and emergency use.

The N3TC has provided the FPA with a 500 litre water tanker with pumps for use alongside the N3, and for FPA members' whose farms border the N3.

"We have decided to become more service oriented as a FPA and this has improved our effectiveness," said Bobby. "We will burn fire breaks for members at commercial rates, provide emergency fire-fighting assistance to members at subsidised rates and to non-members at commercial rates.

"We ensure that fire breaks are burnt properly and are able to offer assistance if things go wrong. This approach has helped to promote the FPA among landowners in the area," he said.

They are busy setting up a radio network and farmers are slowly getting on board.

"A radio network makes it much easier to co-ordinate and manage a fire because everybody can hear what's going on, and are constantly aware of matters," said Bobby.

Published in April 2010

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