AFC - 1st Annual AFC Forest Fire Readiness Competition
Amathole is a summer rainfall district, with veldfires occuring mostly during the dry winter season when the passage of cold fronts causes strong westerly, north-westerly and northerly winds and very low relative humidity. Fires that start in these conditions could cause significant loss - often causing injury and even death.
Map indicating the fire footprint of major fires AFC responded to since 2010
With an average 40 to 80 fire fights per season and a history of 40% of our plantations destroyed by fire between 2001 and 2004, Amathole Forestry Company (AFC) takes the threat of fire seriously. Serving a wide community, with more than 300 staff and a fleet of 28 vehicles (including four new recently acquired fire tankers), AFC has the largest self-funded fire fighting capability between Ugie and Knysna.
Some of the fire-equipped vehicles in use
This season, faced with the sixth year of potentially a seven-year drought and a lack of capacity due to the disbanding of the local Working on Fire (WoF) team, the Amathole Forestry Company took the initiative to reinforce capacity by hosting two teams of fire fighters from the Western Cape - a team from NCC Environmental Services and the Jansenville WoF team.
A competition was held on 15 October to test the mettle of the AFC fire fighters against professionals, serving both as motivation for the AFC teams and as a benchmarking exercise. The occasion also served as a farewell to the contracted teams moving back to the Western Cape for their fire season.
The competition was staged in two phases, the first phase being a static inspection. All competing teams were tasked with packing out of all of the tools and equipment on their fire fighting vehicles for inspection and measurement against a list of criteria.
The second phase was the physical test - to get all equipment packed up, pipes rolled out, a 200 litre drum 200 metres away filled up with water and the pipes rolled back up and packed away on the vehicles - against the clock.
NCC, the winning team, completed this exercise in an amazing time of 9 minutes 20 seconds! Kabusie AFC came in second, followed by the WoF team.
The day ended off with an aerial fire fighting display - AFC’s bomber, with its water carrying capacity of 3000 litres, and the Huey helicopter performing water drops. This was followed by a get together for the announcement of the results, refreshments and an opportunity to bid farewell to the guest teams. Director John William Rance addressed all participants, thanking them for their obvious levels of readiness and professionalism. He urged them to continue along this path, remaining vigilant and ready to face whatever the season holds.
The success of this event is attributed to Chris Everton - recently appointed Fire Protection Manager, whose first task was to put together the competition, Jonathan Norman, Roads Manager, who assisted with logistical arrangements and the organising foresters and supervisors and all participants, especially the AFC foresters and their teams, who prepared, exercised and drilled to make sure that the AFC flags flew high. Thanks to the competitive spirit and enthusiasm of all involved, this competition is set to become a calendar event.
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Chris Everton on the left