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More Effective Firefighting Abilities

Oudtshoorn, 06 February 2024 – The Disaster Management Department of the Greater Oudtshoorn Municipality conducted a practice exercise with the Kushigu Aviation plane on Friday, 02 February 2024, after the installation of three water tanks at the Oudtshoorn Airport.  During this drill, a fixed-wing aircraft was utilized to simulate firefighting operations. This allowed them to test the efficiency and effectiveness of the process in the event of wildfires in Oudtshoorn and the surrounding areas.

The Kushigu Aviation plane is used to cool down bush and veld fires so ground crews can move in. The plane can carry 3,000 litres of water and release it with a recognized program based on the nature of the fire. It is stationed in George and always has a full tank of water so it can respond immediately to a fire. Travelling at over 300 km/h, it takes the plane just ten minutes to reach Oudtshoorn. With fires around Oudtshoorn, the plane’s water tank used to be refilled from the fire hydrant at the Oudtshoorn Airport, however, the water delivery from the fire hydrant is too slow and takes quite a while. To address this, the fire department purchased two 10,000-liter water tanks, and the Garden Route District Municipality donated a third one. These three tanks are set up at the airport, and with a strong pump, water can now be used from these tanks to refill the plane’s 3,000-liter tank within three minutes. The tanks are refilled using the airport’s fire hydrant, which draws water from the drinking supply. However, purified water cannot be used due to the chemicals’ potential damage to the vehicles and pumps.

At the demonstration on Friday, the plane released the 3,000 litres of water already onboard over an 800m strip during a flyby. Then, the system was tested to see how long it takes to refill the tank. During the test run, it took exactly three minutes to refill. The pilot then demonstrated releasing the 3,000 litres again over a much shorter distance.

The value of the plane is approximately R50 million. It is stationed in George along with two light reconnaissance planes and a Huey helicopter with a water bucket of 1000 litres.

Firefighting in Oudtshoorn has received a significant boost with the installation of 30,000-litre water tanks at the airport, where the firefighting plane can take on 3,000 litres of water within 3 minutes to combat veld fires which strengthens firefighting abilities. The system has been tested and is working 100%.

Oudtshoorn Municipality wants to thank all the stakeholders who made this service possible.