Local volunteer fire protection associations in rural and farming areas are critical to the safety of community members, livestock and property. Without adequate support and equipment these volunteer organisations would not be able to operate, and communities and property could be under threat of runaway fires, particularly during the winter months when the grasslands are dry and very combustible.
Apies River is a local farming community along the Bakwena operated N1N4 toll road and its local Fire Protection Association (FPA) was sorely in need of a new firefighting unit.
As a civic minded organisation that supports communities along the route, Bakwena answered the call and sponsored the Apies River Rural FPA by handing over a new Nissan Patrol vehicle on Saturday, May 29 at Ludwig’s Roses in Wallmannsthal, which is just off the N1 north route.
Once equipped with all the necessary equipment, the firefighting unit can be used by members of the association to attend to fires on their own, or on their neighbours properties. This unit will thereby protect the surrounding farmland and communities along the N1 route.
The Apies River Rural FPA was constituted in 2005 according to the National Veld and Forest Fire Act, Act 101 of 1998 and was registered by the Minister of the Department Water Affairs and Forestry, on 23 March 2006, making this its tenth year of operation. It is the second oldest volunteer FPA in Pretoria. During this time it has attended to approximately 3500 fires which have occurred during the winter months of May to October.
Says Liam Clarke, Commercial Manager of Bakwena, “The FPA provides a critical service as uncontrolled fires and heavy smoke along the route is an enormous hazard for motorists. When visibility drops due to heavy smoke, the chances of road accidents increase. We are happy to be able to support such an essential service for this local community.”
In the event of an unplanned accidental fire, members have free access to the equipment and can call on the Fire Reservists for assistance.
Bakwena shares some tips below for motorists when driving into smoke caused by a veld fire:
- Don’t enter the smoke covered area if you can avoid it.
- If you can’t safely pull over, proceed at a speed suitable for visibility, turn on lights and hazard lights, and sound your horn occasionally. Use the painted centreline to help guide you. Look for a safe place to pull off the roadway.
- Never stop in the emergency lane as it is reserved for emergency vehicles.
- If stopped, make sure your emergency lights are turned on after you park. Vehicles approaching from the rear can take note of your vehicles proactive approach to dealing with the hazard.
“The moment you realise that it is unsafe to proceed, your first priority should be to pull your vehicle safely off the road and out of harm’s way. If you can’t see what’s ahead, you may crash into another vehicle or be rear-ended as you attempt to negotiate your way through the smoke. It’s better to be a few minutes late than to not arrive at all.”