Quick thinking and quick action by an MTO forester and a mulching contractor stopped the spread of a wildfire that broke out in very old fynbos near Covie in the Western Cape recently.
MTO forester Koos Lourens called Clinton Payn of Savithi Mulching for assistance in stopping the fire that was threatening surrounding areas including rural dwellings and MTO’s Lottering plantation. Savithi has been busy in the area for several months clearing overgrown compartments for MTO that had been damaged in an earlier fire using a Tigercat M726G wheeled mulcher. It was a Sunday when most people are taking it easy, but quick action was needed to stop the fire before it ran away into the old growth fynbos.
Watch the Tigercat mulcher in action as it creates an emergency firebreak...
Aerial support was used to cool the fire down allowing the Savithi team to move in with the Tigercat mulcher to create a firebreak of around 1 km long and around 25 metres wide that ultimately stopped the fire in its tracks. The speed of the large and powerful wheeled mulcher was key in getting the job done quickly before the wind could pick up or change direction and turn it into a really dangerous spreading fire.
Clinton said the fynbos was so dense and high that the operator couldn’t see the ground he was mulching and in some places he had to assess the risks on foot to make sure there were no big holes or rocks that could damage the machine.
According to MTO forester Nico de Waal who was the fire boss, the fynbos in that area is around 25 years old and is well over head high, and creates a very hot fire. He said it is not possible to use ground forces to create a firebreak in those conditions, and so the best option was to bring in the mulcher which reduced the fynbos to a mulch carpet in buffer strips that stopped the fire in a matter of hours.
Nico said that MTO has been busy working with other stakeholders including the Southern Cape and Sarah Baartman FPAs to do block burns in an effort to create strategic fire breaks that would prevent the spread of large, destructive wildfires such as those that occurred in the southern Cape in 2017 and again in 2018. He said that most of the wildfires come from beyond their boundaries and it’s part of their Integrated Fire Management strategy to fight any fire that has the potential to threaten their plantations, wherever they occur.
Clinton said there has been a lot of interest in utilising Savithi’s services to mulch fire breaks and reduce fuel loads in the southern Cape which has been plagued by big, destructive fires over the past few years. Another benefit of mulching is that it opens up areas to allow vehicle access for forestry operations or for fire suppression. Land owners and land managers in the region have realised that proactive action is required to reduce fire risk in this fire-prone landscape.