Who is ultimately responsible for clearing fire-ready bush?

Following the St Francis Today post on Friday we received several comments some which need to be re-published as they discuss what can, and what should be done about uncleared bush. We will in days to come, compile a page with all relevant information after consultation with the Kouga Municipality to ensure all bylaws are in force.

Reader ‘Trevor’ commented on the bylaws below which certainly makes interesting and relevant information.

“The answers lie in Councils policies and bylaws, especially

  1. The Kouga community fire safety bylaw
  2. The Kouga environmental health bylaw.

These bylaws are/ should be on the muni website.

In summary, in the event of a recipient failing to comply with the requirements of a notice served on him ( to clear the land of bush / fire hazards) within the time limits specified, Council may, at the expense of the recipient, forthwith enter upon such premises and clear from such premises any bush causing a fire or health hazard. The cost of such work shall be recoverable by Council.

This applies to land irrespective of ownership.

The Fire Chief is empowered to enter any premises, any vacant land, and take any action to remove a fire risk if the owner fails to do so.

Without taking anything away from the Fire Service and the Disaster Volunteer Group, preventative bush clearing, especially on large erven surrounding residential areas( where yesterdays fire and the Dec 2018 fires originated) will drastically reduce the risk of houses burning, and the often futile but brave efforts of the Fire Services and the DVG wont be necessary. Stated differently, if the land behind the fire station was properly cleared, the 11 houses that were destroyed yesterday would still be standing.

What ‘Im saying, repeating for emphasis, is that irrespective of the cause of these two recent fires, whether it is arson or any other cause, bottom line is if the two large overgrown erven where the fires originated, were cleared properly at the time, posing no fire risk, the approx 30 ( 20+10) or so houses would not have been destroyed by fire.

Arson by bush fires is only effective if there are large overgrown erven adjacent to houses.

We cant just blame the fires and resulting destruction of homes on asonists. We must ask the hard question: why was the land on which the fire was evidently intentionally started not properly maintained, to pose no vegetation fire risk to adjacent properties?

To their credit, Kouga Municipality has established a Vegetation Fire Risk Reduction Committee, VFRRC, which comprises muni employees and some experts/ residents. The objective is to identify high risk land posing a vegetation fire risk, and arrange that it be cleared and maintained. Already they have done some clearing, with great support from local businesses and volunteers.

The solution?

  1. Home/ plot owners must take responsibility by complying with the requirements of the two bylaws quoted above.
    2. If point 1. above is ignored, Municipality must follow through vigorously on the punitive bylaw provisions in the relevant bylaw/s for noncompliance. ( I hear they are doing so. Well done.)
    3. Work of the Vegetation Fire Risk Reduction Committee to be expedited and supported.
    4. Thatch roof homes should have sufficient water and water pressure available via a sprinkler system or hose/ hoses to protect the roof.”



Could men robbing a beehive been cause of St Francis Bay Fire?

It has been reported that two men were seen near in the open field, behind Lyme Road near where Thursday’s fire is believed to have started. It appeared, according to reports, that they were smoking a beehive to calm the bees possibly with intention to rob the hive of honey when a fire broke out.

The eyewitness said that one of the men was wearing a blue overall and another was pushing a bicycle. It is alleged that upon seeing that a smoke was turning into fire, both men ran away.

A team of some 80 to 100 fire fighters and volunteers managed to eventually contain the blaze but not before it had destroyed 11 houses and damaged two.

Police are urging anyone with information that could assist with their investigation to contact the investigating officer,

Detective Warrant Officer Lwazi Solombela at 071 475 1831.  The information may also be shared anonymously via Crime Stop 08600 10111.

Two surfers help fellow surfer

NSRI STATION 21 - St Francis BayNSRI Jeffreys Bay duty crew were activated shortly after midday on Friday following eye-witness reports of a surfer brought to the shore by two local fellow surfers at The Point, Jeffreys Bay. The man, believed to be aged in his 70’s, appeared to be in distress once the surfers had landed him safely on the beach.

The NSRI medical crew and Gardmed ambulance services responded and on arrival on the scene the NSRI medics medically treated the man and he was stabilised. A Gardmed ambulance medical care then arrived and treatment of the man was taken over by paramedics. The man was then transported to hospital by ambulance in a stable condition for further medical care.

NSRI commend the surfers who rescued the man from the water after noticing the man appearing to be in difficulty in the surf and for raising the alarm once he was safely on the beach and he was appearing to be suffering a medical emergency.