Firewise in South Africa making a world of difference to residents at risk
Wildfire is a global issue and Firewise is playing its part around the world by enabling residents to make a difference, wherever they live. In early February, NFPA had the great privilege to meet with its wildfire partner in South Africa, the Kishugu Non-Profit Company (NPC), and others in fire and emergency services in Cape Town to learn from them about their experiences with wildfire and how NFPA can be a part of their preparedness outreach. Since 2006, Kishugu NPC has worked with NFPA in adopting the Firewise Community model to help at-risk residents with wildfire educational materials and empowering community action. South Africa has 11 official languages and socio-economic hurdles that make such positive outreach all the more valuable. Kishugu NPC, implements the South African Government's Working on Fire Programme, utilizing Firewise as a job creation public benefit. Each Firewise Community has a committee that delivers neighbor-to-neighbor educational outreach, risk assessments, mitigation project work, and even evacuation response as trusted voices in their community. Working on Fire also trains and employs wildland firefighters across South Africa for response efforts, while building their fire professional abilities.While there, NFPA attended a beneficial meeting hosted by the Western Cape Government Disaster Management staff which highlighted the common wildfire issue and challenges we all face to public perception and education.NFPA visited with Chief Fire Officer Ian Schnetler, City of Cape Town Fire & Rescue, to learn about the department's experience with wildland fire response across the Cape region and its work with residents on WUI fire understanding. NFPA also spent time with Chief Director Colin Deiner, of the Western Cape Government Disaster Management and Fire & Rescue Service, to learn about their fire public education and preparedness efforts with populations at risk. NFPA's Learn Not To Burn and other initiatives have been used by them for fire safety messaging to school children. Out in the field, we were honored to visit the Kishugu - South Africa Firewise Community of Goedverwacht, north of Cape Town, and applaud their Firewise board members who received fire training certification from their regional Fire Protection Association. Goedverwacht, like many others, utilize a Firewise Garden to explain less fire-prone succulent plant use around structures. NFPA also spent time visiting with the Firewise Community of Sir Lowry's Pass east of Cape Town (committee pictured above) to learn from their experiences in community outreach. We look forward to the work ahead with Kishugu NPC and all those addressing wildfire risks in South Africa. Opportunities like these provide NFPA great learning experience in the field and illustrate where we can positively work with international partners to provide influence to the truly global conversation on fire safety.