Fire Assessment

Veldfires is an important natural hazard in South Africa.  To be able to plan for fire incidences one must understand the fire risk, frequency and distribution in the province. 

 

In compiling this section information is used from CSIR Report No: CSIR/NRE/ECO/ER/2010/0023/C, namely National Veldfire Risk Assessment: Analysis of Exposure of Social, Economic and Environmental Assets to Veldfire Hazards in South Africa by Authors: GG Forsyth, FJ Kruger and DC Le Maitre, March 2010.

 

 

  • Fire regime and fire-ecology types

The “fire regime” is the history of fire in a particular vegetation type or area including the frequency, intensity and season of burning; it is the combination of elements that typifies fires in a given region, under assumed natural conditions.

 

A fire-ecology type is a class of vegetation types that is relatively uniform in terms of the fire regimes (e.g. frequency, season, intensity and size) within the constituent vegetation types.

 

Figure 1.  The distribution of the 13 fire-ecology types based on the descriptions and distribution of the vegetation.

 

  • Rural populations and veldfires:

Rural populations in South Africa affect fire activity and fire affect these communities adversely.   Figure 2 clearly indicate the concentration of rural settlements in the Eastern Cape.

 

 Figure 2.                  Indicative distribution of the rural population in the Eastern Cape. This shows only dispersed rural settlements, which account for the larger majority of rural people

 

  • Veldfire risk levels in South Africa:

Extreme overall veldfire risk corresponds with the Sour Grassland and Moist Woodland fire- ecology types. In the Fynbos fire-ecology type such conditions only occur where there are commercial forestry plantations. In Coastal Grasslands and Arid Woodlands pockets of Extreme veldfire risk occur where there are dispersed rural settlements. In 48.2% of the province there is an Extreme veldfire risk, while it is High in 5.3%, Medium in 18.8% and Low in 27.8%. In areas of Extreme and High veldfire risk it is necessary to take precautions to safe guard lives, livelihoods, property and the environment.

Figure 3.                  Overall assessment of veldfire risk levels in the Eastern Cape.

 

It is important to look at fire danger within a municipal level.  Refer to appendix 1 for detailed fire danger ratings per municipality.

 

  • Fire Regions in the Eastern Cape:

The Eastern Cape is clearly divided into two distinct fire regions.

 

Summer rainfall area:

This includes the largest portion of the Eastern Cape.  The eastern and northern regions predominantly have a summer rainfall season with mainly Grasslands, Savanna and a winter fire season.

 

Winter rainfall area:

The southern and in particular the Tsitsikamma area is predominantly a winter rainfall region with a summer fire season.  This area does however link in with the Southern Cape that is widely regarded as an all year fire season.