Volunteer Wildfire Services

Filed in Awe2, Everyday Hero by on January 19, 2015 • views: 2933

Volunteer Wildfire Services

The Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS)  have been combating dangerous and often deadly runaway fires since being baptised through the devastating fires in 1999 / 2000 in Cape Town.
banner12 Volunteer Wildfire Servicesnewsfeed Volunteer Wildfire Services
The VWS has three primary functions:

  1. Wildfire suppression services
  2. Education and awareness programmes
  3. Wildfire suppression and management training
www Volunteer Wildfire Services Website http://www.vws.org.za/
facebook Volunteer Wildfire Services Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/VolunteerWildfireServices
twitter Volunteer Wildfire Services Twitter  https://twitter.com/vwsfires
youtube Volunteer Wildfire Services You Tube  https://www.youtube.com/user/VWSFirefighters
Pledge  http://www.vws.org.za/?page_id=2189
VWS Volunteer Wildfire Services

How We Operate

On standby to respond to fires and emergencies 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year – that’s how we work.

Our volunteers are just that – volunteers. They are extraordinary people who give of their time and energy to protect lives, property and our natural heritage. Most have day jobs, some are students, others run their own companies – but all are dedicated, motivated and highly-trained to ensure that our ultimate goal of wildfire suppression is taken care of.

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Departments

There are various departments within the Volunteer Wildfire Services that operate dependently to ensure the smooth running of our unit. These departments include:

  • Fire Fighters
  • Drivers
  • Control Room
  • Planning and Mobile Command
  • Logistics and Catering
  • Technical and Mechanical Services
  • Administration and Member Services

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Funding

As a completely Non Profit Organisation the VWS remains operational by receiving funding from a few small corporate sponsors and organisational partners (Table Mountain National Park and CapeNature) as well as individual donors. We also initiate our own fundraising projects, like the popular VWS Trail Challenge, the Jonkershoek Fire & Fynbos Awareness Day and the Newlands VWS Open Day. This vital funding allows us to continue to manage ourselves independently.

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However, to remain operational, we are always on the lookout for additional funding that will allow us to further serve the communities that are threatened by wildfires as well as protect our natural heritage and the whole of Cape Town’s water catchment area.

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Newlands Station:

The Newlands station is the oldest Volunteer Wildfire Services station. It is a well-developed station with just over 100 members volunteering their time so that the station is home to a very effective fire fighting unit. The VWS shares its base with the SANParks fire management offices, this works well, as it is Table Mountain National Park who the Newlands crews assist in fighting wild fires. However, Newlands crews do not only fight wildfires in the Cape Peninsula but are often called upon to assist with fire fighting efforts further afield in areas like the Boland, alongside our Jonkershoek crews, or even further in places such as the Cederberg.

We are proud to say that Newlands base is home to our ICS Planning section. One of the rooms in our base is solely used for planning as it is vital to the functioning of our fire fighting efforts. Our “Planners”, when at work, are able to plot, map and run our fire fighting efforts down to the smallest detail, which helps us create a well-oiled firefighting effort. Post fires, our planning department becomes vital for TMNP as we provide detailed maps of fires, which allows the Park to track veld ages, an important concern for conservation of fynbos. Our vehicle fleet, stationed at the back of our base, consisting of the Mobile Command Vehicle, two Landrover Defenders (crew transporters) and a GWM skid vehicle, are all ready and waiting to respond at a moments notice.

Our base is located at the bottom of Newlands Forest just below the famous “Heli Pads” and above the M3. If you would like to find out more about the VWS, be it to join as a member or just out of interest for what we do and who we are, please feel free to contact our station management team (see below). If you see us training in winter or on stand by during the summer, and you are walking by or in the area please don’t be shy, come inside and have a chat.

Jonkershoek Station

Following the devastating fires at the beginning of 2009 in the Jonkershoek Valley, around Stellenbosch and Somerset West, a new station was established in Jonkershoek. The Jonkershoek station has allowed the VWS to hugely expand its area of service, providing assistance in the four major Boland CapeNature Reserves: Jonkershoek, Liemietberg, Kogleberg and Hottentots Holland.

In the past four years the VWS Jonkershoek branch has grown to approximately 50 active members with a fantastic support crew. In recent years, the Jonkershoek station has assisted CapeNature at a number of devastating fires including Du Toits Kloof, Franschhoek, Cederberg, Banghoek and many more. With the occasional help from VWS Newlands to help get more teams on the fire line, they have proved to be a valuable resource to CapeNature. In the coming season, this station is expected to grow and continue to offer the same great service to CapeNature, while assisting in fighting fires to protect a significant portion of the City of Cape Town’s water catchment area.

South Peninsula Station

South Peninsula Station is the most recently formed VWS Station, coming into creation in 2012 and assisting with their stand bys and fires in the same year. This station is still finding its feet as growth continues slowly drawing in more new recruits this year, and with the help hand of some dual members from the Newlands Station.

This station was primarily set up to reduce the response times to get teams to fires further south in the Cape Peninsula, as a large portion of fire fighting resources are located further north around Newlands and the city bowl. The new VWS Station has also assisted in patrolling fire prone areas over the weekends in an attempt to be able to get small wildfires out quicker. They responded a number of times during their first season will on these patrols.

As the Station Manager fondly says, “South Peninsula Station is the ‘virtual’ station” as a permanent base is being sought in the south of the Cape Peninsula. For their first fire season the members responded out of Newlands base, but as the station continues to grow and become more established down south, they will grow to become their ‘own’ station.

If you can help this new station getting set up in anyway, please contact Station manager Allan Roy.

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