Two Department of Environment and Conservation specialists in pine plantation fire management are heading to South Africa to train local plantation managers in prescribed burning.
Mike Cantelo, fire co-ordinator based at Wanneroo, and Peter Gibson, fire co-ordinator in Collie, will each spend two weeks in South Africa from mid-March to mid-April.
Environment Minister David Templeman said the South African Government-owned Komatiland Forests Company had asked for DEC assistance to develop skills in pine plantation prescribed burning and other fire prevention programs.
The company’s fire risk manager, Ben Bothma, spent two weeks in Western Australia last June to assess DEC’s fire management programs in the pine plantations north of Perth and in the Blackwood Valley.
Mr Templeman said Mr Bothma had indicated WA’s approach to fire management would be highly applicable to the Komatiland plantations that extended over 128,000ha in the north-east of the country.
Wildlfires destroyed 17,400ha of the company’s plantations last year. A total of 80,000ha of plantations throughout South Africa were lost in fires in the same year.
“DEC has had an extensive ‘under pine’ burning program for many years,” Mr Templeman said.
“This annual burn program, which covers 6,000ha, has been highly effective in minimising the loss of publicly-owned pines as a result of wildfires. The single largest loss of plantation was at Gnangara in 1996, when 1,000ha of pines worth $10million were severely damaged in a wildfire that was started by arson.
“This is an exceptional record, considering there are up to 150 deliberately lit fires in the pine plantations north of Perth each year.”
Mr Cantelo and Mr Gibson will also inspect fire protection and conservation programs by other land management and conservation agencies in South Africa.
Minister's Office - 9213 7200