Did the Fire Hazard ‘Experts’ not notice?

Yesterday evening a talk at St Francis Links by experienced firefighter Pete Buist, a 43 year veteran as a Forester and Wildland (Bush) Fire Fighter with the Alaskan Division of Forestry who still does contract fire management work during the summer season in various parts of the United States, Canada and Mexico, made mention of bush cuttings being left to lie at roadside in many parts of St Francis he has noticed during his short time on holiday in our village. During his very informative talk he stressed this as one of the many major hazards that create opportunity for fires to gain momentum and make the lives of those fighting the fires job all the more difficult.

bush left roadside in Cape St Francis

But here’s the rub….

Various interest groups from around Kouga met at Cape St Francis Resort last Friday to no doubt continue formulating a disaster management plan for the area as well as another show of the ANC’s power base as discussed in yesterday’s column ‘Blue lights descend on St Francis’. No word yet on any progress with regard to a plan but it is extremely concerning that with so many ‘experts’ busy discussing matters of fire and disaster, not one of these experts noticed a potential disaster waiting to happen. Openly visible for all to see on the verges of Da Gama Road on the way to the resort it would take either a blind person or someone ignorant of what constitutes potential danger, not to notice the threat.
Cut bush left on Da Gama Road Cape St FrancisPiles of cut brush have been left on the verges for several weeks to really dry out and must by now make perfect kindling for a fire to take hold and flourish. Should this happen there can be little doubt that such a fire would endanger more than a few houses that verge onto Da Gama. The past few days have been almost windless but the wind is sure to return soon and it one of these brush piles were to ignite, alas some areas of Cape St Francis, St Francis Bay and Santareme that escaped the January devastation would  face the prospect of possibly losing their homes, or worse a life.

It seems unlikely that the brush was dumped by individual homeowners for there simply are too many piles alongside the road to be the work of an individual or individuals. Some weeks ago workers who appeared to part of a municipal workforce, or certainly working for a company employed by the municipality to clear the brush, was seen to be clearing bush on the roadside in the area so it seems likely it is they who have left the piles on the roadside rather than finishing the job by carting it away.

It seems inconceivable that not one of this brigade of ‘qualified’ people being entrusted with planning how future disasters will be handled or prevented have not paid the slightest attention to a hazard so obvious. Surely they should have alerted authorities and a team should have been dispatched immediately to remove a conceivable danger and prevent a possible disaster.

And what of the authorities? The person responsible for managing the bush clearing should be suspended (without pay) pending an investigation as to why the drying brush was not been cleared immediately. A dereliction of duty that thankfully up until time of posting this article had not resulted in a major catastrophe but that is not to say it won’t unless something is done with all haste.

Da Gama Road in Cape St Francis has been highlighted in this article simply because it surely should have been noticed by those in charge of disaster management planning but the bush lining Da Gama Road is not an isolated incident. Many of the not so visible roads and smaller side roads in both Cape St Francis, St Francis Bay, Santareme and the Port are literally lined with brush just waiting to catch alight and create another potential disaster.

More on Pete Buist’s talk in a later column in the near future for the subject seems to suddenly have become rather topical and Pete had some great advice on what individual homeowners can do to propect their properties in event of another in the area.

As if to emphasise all Pete had spoken of at The Links a little earlier last night, on the journey back to Cape St Francis after a superb dinner at St Francis Links (more on that later), the fire department was hard at work extinguishing another of the frequent fires at the tip. A windy night, a few airborne sparks and embers and who knows …..