Press Release: Issued George Municipality, 29 October 2019

Immediate Release

Heading: No fireworks anytime, anywhere


The George Municipality reminds residents and visitors that fireworks, fire crackers, flares, paper lanterns and other such paraphernalia are considered a major fire risk and are not allowed in public or private spaces in the municipal area this summer, or at any other time.

George Fire Chief Neels Barnard said the George Municipality Public Safety and Nuisance bylaws, overall fire safety and disaster management regulations, and ongoing dry and hot conditions of the Western Cape fire season were all reasons why fireworks remained banned in the municipal area. “We appeal to residents and visitors to consider that the city and all its neighbourhoods and beaches are surrounded by natural vegetation and that, combined with hot and windy summer weather conditions on the Garden Route, the fire risk is omni-present.”

The selling of fireworks is also illegal, and no such permits have been issued or will be issued by the George Municipality. The illegal trading, possession and/or setting off of fireworks carry fines of R300 and fireworks will be confiscated. Such activities can be reported on the numbers below.

While the current municipal bylaw mentions application for a permit for professional pyrotechnic shows, the George Fire Department reiterates that no such permits have been issued for years and are extremely unlikely to be issued in the foreseeable future.

Mr Barnard stressed there had not been designated sites for fireworks in the George municipal area for years and was unlikely to be reinstated, despite public tradition to ‘self-designate’ certain areas such as beaches, parks and streets. “This summer we are especially concerned about our coastal zone, which has been identified as a high-risk area in our recent fire risk assessment. While we know the intention is to light the fireworks over the sea or out of harm’s way, the risk of misreading wind direction or a change in wind direction is not worth taking when lives and property are at stake.

“Paper lanterns hold duel concern. In addition to the risk of blowing and dropping out of sight and catching fire in vegetation or on flammable material before it is extinguished, paper lanterns also waste resources when rescue services are incorrectly alerted to an ‘emergency flare’.

“Similarly, the illegal setting off of a signal flare on New Year’s Eve 2019 caused a fire that destroyed several homes and necessitated evacuations at Betty’s Bay. A man was ultimately arrested and charged in terms of the National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act.

“The public must please understand that any kind of spark or heat holds a threat – while fireworks, flares and lanterns are being highlighted, the appeal is for responsible, fire-aware action throughout. Please exercise extreme caution always, make fires only in protected and designated areas, and dispose of cigarette butts safely.”

The George Fire Department’s access to high-tech equipment such as a drone has this year enabled it to do extensive fire risk assessment across the municipal area, specifically in areas that are difficult to access on land. “The fuel load in the coastal zone is particularly high, mostly due to the areas not having naturally burnt off for some time, which means relatively thick layers of very dry wood and other plant material close to beaches and beachside communities that would probably burn hot and fast should it catch fire.  The vegetation in these zones are generally fynbos, afro-montane indigenous forest and alien vegetation, and are mostly on private agricultural and residential land.

“The George Municipality has already taken steps to address issues highlighted by this assessment. We have started issuing notices to landowners reminding them of their legal responsibility regarding alien vegetation and fire management. A small patch of coastal land belonging to the municipality will be cleared shortly, and patches municipal land in other high-risk areas cleared before the start of the official fire season on 1 December 2019.”

The municipality will also be erecting ‘no fireworks’ posters ahead of the festive season at beaches, public open spaces and streets known for fireworks activities.

“We make an urgent appeal to all who live and visit here to respect the fireworks ban and to be generally fire-aware wherever they go, whatever they do. As a community still reeling from devastating fires over the past two years, the people of George and the Garden Route need everyone’s help to raise fire risk awareness and be safe. We thank you in advance for your cooperation and support,” said Mr Barnard.

Please report illegal trade and setting off of fireworks in George to Law Enforcement at 044 801 6350 or after hours at 044 801 6300.

Please report illegal, irresponsible and unsafe fires to the Fire Department on 044 801 6300.

FIRE EMERGENCIES: 044 801 6311