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PREPARING FOR FIRE SEASON

Safire Insurance has been insuring plantations since 1987.  Whilst the company has diversified and now offers a wide range of short-term insurance products, Safire’s timber clients remain a top priority. 

With both the local and global situation in mind, Ruth Bezuidenhout, GM of Safire’s Crop Division, shares some key insights ahead of fire season.

Ruth urges growers “not to be lulled into a false sense of security following good rains. Some of the most catastrophic fires we have experienced have occurred shortly after heavy snowfalls or rain.  Fuel loads are high this year and extra precautions should be taken when burning.”

Focus is typically placed on preparations leading up to a controlled burn but too often not enough consideration is given to the monitoring period post-burn. “I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to be vigilant about monitoring sites after a burn. Many of our claims in recent years have resulted from flare-ups that have occurred days – and sometimes weeks – after a controlled burn,” explains Ruth. “The weather conditions in the days following a controlled burn will also affect how long you are likely to need to monitor.”

Other points on the Safire fire season checklist are:

  • Communication is key!  Collaborating with neighbours and members of the community creates a supportive environment during what can be a very stressful time. It is also more likely to result in a well-coordinated response to any emergencies that may arise. 
  • Familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations set out by your local Fire Protection Association (FPA). 
  • Keep your insurance policy up to date and be aware that timber values may change during the season as a result of exchange rates or other factors. 
  • Note any changes to risk and communicate these to your insurer.
  • Operate within the parameters outlined by your insurer and FPA.
  • Check FDI forecasts daily and only conduct burning when it is safe to do so. 
  • Identify high risk areas on your property, and those of immediate neighbours, and ensure that adequate firebreaks are in place around these locations.
  • Firebreaks cannot be cleared and left; they need to be regularly checked and maintained to be effective.
  • Extinguish all smouldering material before leaving a firebreak/fire site, particularly prior to a pay weekend or public holiday. 
  • Test all communication systems, including communication with the local aerial bombing association in case aerial support is needed.
  • Train and equip your fire-fighting teams and use protective clothing and equipment that conform to FPA standards. 
  • Water tankers should be filled, strategically positioned and ready at all times.
  • Ensure that access roads are in good condition to facilitate fast, safe escape routes in the event of uncontrolled fires and familiarise all staff with these escape routes.

“Last year was another well managed fire season for Safire and its members,” says Ruth. “This is primarily due to the responsible approach applied by those within our Plantation Insurance Pool. With foresight and methodical preparation, we can once again mitigate our risks and share in a successful fire season.”

The Safire Crop team are ready to assist with any queries you may have. Contact Ruth Bezuidenhout (083 631 1264), Gareth Smallbones (083 384 4788) or Jürgen Schütte (083 630 4135).