Justin Sullivan, Patrick Ryan, Jon-Jon Emary, Volunteer Wildfire Services
There is a saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” but is a picture worth a life?
These days it seems everyone is looking to express themselves and their view of the world via social media posts.
While this is part of our modern world, the competition to achieve more likes or share a dramatic image appears to be leading to an increase in reckless behaviour during emergency incidents.
Often, by people who don’t have a full understanding of how dangerous a situation, such as a wildfire, may be, until too late.
The very real chance that members of the public may be injured or killed by placing themselves into these dangerous situations is of grave concern to many of the organisations who respond to and work within incident management.
The support that the organisations receive from the public is fantastic and tremendously valued, however, we urge that people recognise the very real danger they can face when placing themselves close to a wildfire.
Firefighters wear protective clothing in order to be able to work as closely as they do to the flames, but at times even this is not enough to protect them from the full impact of the heat.
Wildfires can move incredibly quickly, and this is especially true when driven by winds or moving up slope.
The area that a wildfire has burned through is still not safe to enter even after the flames have gone.
There are other hazards that still exist there such white ash pits; these are pits filled with super-heated ash from burned out root systems.
They are hard to spot so can easily be stepped on by someone thinking they are on solid ground.
The result of falling into one of these pits would be severe burns and injuries.
Other hazards in the burned areas after a wildfire has moved through are falling trees and branches from trees that have become unstable owing to the surrounding vegetation or root systems being burned away.
Rock falls are also common in the mountains after a wildfire, again this is due to the lack of vegetation and possibly also by the action of firefighting resources dropping water or working on slopes.
Please do continue to support firefighting organisations, but please do so from a safe distance and let us not have to worry about you, while we are worrying about the fire.
For more information on how you can support us, visit our website at vws.org.za
Carolyn Frost, Bolander editor, replies:
Thank you for your letter, as it serves as an excellent reminder of what the ground crews are facing when they respond to fires.
We recently had a fire at Silwerboom Kloof Natural Heritage Site in Somerset West, where I personally witnessed the determination of the response teams, and the effect of aerial crews water-bombing with helicopters and planes.
See the picture on the top right, to see just how regular folk can contribute and support our fire-fighting teams.
Carolyn Frost – Ed