In 2003, the Forest Fire Association (FFA) (now changed to Kishugu Group) was given the task of establishing a national veld fire (now referred to as wildland fire) awareness campaign. In searching for examples that might be applied in the Southern African context, the FireWise Communities in the USA stood out.
In November 2006, Working on Fire (WoF) personnel visited the FireWise Backyards and Beyond Conference in Denver in the United States to start building a formal relationship with FireWise Communities USA and evaluated firsthand whether the American model could be adapted to the Southern African situation.
In looking at the American version, we asked: ‘Could the project suit a less affluent society and one in which the spirit of volunteerism was not as prevalent?’ Indeed, it was found that the principles applying to the FireWise design and facilitation in communities at risk are the same, whether the community is poverty stricken and disempowered or extremely well-off and educated. But the FireWise Communities’ model can only work in South Africa if communities are helped, through training and mentoring, to make decisions that are affordable and relevant to their own communities.