About us

The Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) has been on the front line, combating dangerous and sometimes deadly runaway wildfires since its inception during the devastating fires that ravaged Cape Town in 1999/2000. With a force of more than 300 volunteers, with women making up 34% of our volunteers, who operate from our four stations, Newlands, South Peninsula, Stellenbosch, and Helderberg.  VWS is the largest volunteer firefighting organisation in South Africa. VWS stands tall as a powerful non-profit organization, driven by a team of fiercely passionate volunteers, and led by our fearless CEO, Claire Lötter.

In the face of some of the most ferocious fires Cape Town and the Western Cape have ever seen, our relentless team of highly trained ground crews work together with other emergency service organisations to protect lives and homesteads. Thanks to our unwavering commitment, VWS has recorded close to 100,000 active firefighting hours between its members and stations, showing that nothing can stand in our way when it comes to protecting our beloved communities and natural landscapes.

As we see our fire season’s lengthening and the frequency of wildfires increasing; we are more committed to serving our communities and continuing our goals of educating and promoting “good fire”, saving and protecting South Africa’s natural heritage, property, lives, and precious mountain water catchment areas.

July 1999
VWS established
Newlands
2009
Base established
Stellenbosch
2012
New base established
South Peninsula
March 2015
Cape Town
Cape Peninsula Fires
2015
Grabouw base established
Helderberg
November 2016
Stellenbosch
Jonkershoek Valley Fire
June 2017
Knysna
Knysna Great Fire
January 2019
Betty's BAy
Overstrand Fire
June 2021
Table Mountain
Game Park Fire

Volunteer Testimonials

When everyone runs away from a fire, we run towards it. We leave our loved ones at home, put on our yellows, and head out the door to go do what we love doing.
Mark Randall
NWL
I have always wanted to be a firefighter since I was a kid, so this helps fill that dream. My son, at the age of 10, signed me up, and I’m so happy he did!
Nicola Simpson
SPS
What I love about volunteering with the VWS are the lifelong friendships that can be made. You meet people from all walks of life—some of the most remarkable people.
Paul Featherstone
NWL

VWS Bases

Helderberg

Newlands

South Peninsula

Stellenbosch

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HELDERBERG BASE

In the wake of the devastating 2014 fires that swept through the Grabouw area, the Volunteer Wildfire Services recongnised the need to expand its ability to serve areas further afield. The new Grabouw base was then established. In 2018, our base found a new home in the stunning Helderberg Nature Reserve, where the beauty of nature meets the bravery of our teams.

Collaboration is key, and our Helderberg and Stellenbosch bases work in perfect harmony responding to fires and assisting our partners with integrated land management.

Our intrepid crews aren’t afraid of a challenge; you’ll often find them trekking into the double digits and scaling mountainsides with unwavering determination. It’s no wonder that our HDB and STB bases are affectionately known as the Mountain Goats, a testament to their fearless pursuit of protecting our cherished landscapes.

Station Manager: Daan Brink

Member Services: Jacques Vermeulen

NEWLANDS BASE

VWS NWL

Where the Volunteer Wildfire Services all started, at the Newlands station…

Our roots run deep in this well-established outfit, boasting a dedicated team of over 180 active volunteers. Together, they contribute their time and expertise across a multitude of disciplines, ensuring that the station continues its 25 year legacy.

We are nestled within the same base are the SANParks fire management offices, this strategic partnership aligns our efforts seamlessly, making us an integral part of their wildfire management strategy.

But our commitment doesn’t stop at the park’s borders. The Newlands crews are always at the ready to lend a helping hand, collaborating with teams from other VWS bases and partner organisations in the relentless battle against wildfires that often rage across the Western Cape. Together, we stand strong, united by a shared mission to protect our precious landscapes and communities from the destructive forces of nature.

Station Manager: Emma Cook

Member Services: Dane Bramwell

South Peninsula station BASE

VWS SPS

Welcome to the South Peninsula Station (SPS), a shining example of how even the smallest sparks can ignite a mighty flame of dedication.

Established in 2012, SPS started its journey remotely from Storage Land, but in 2017, it found its permanent and well-deserved home in charming Noordhoek.

This permanent base has been a game-changer, streamlining our response to wildfires and fostering the remarkable growth of our station, which now proudly boasts over 50 dedicated members. Within our ranks, you’ll find active firefighters, skilled drivers, logistical support personnel, and Logistical support team that ensures our firefighters are well-looked after while on the front lines.

In 2022, SPS welcomed a powerful addition to its fleet, “BP1,” a versatile firefighting vehicle. This remarkable machine not only transports our courageous crews to and from fires but also carries a formidable 4000 liters of water, transforming it into a formidable yellow firefighting beast.

Station Manager: Doug Hardy

Member Services: Greta Brock

Stellenbosch BASE

VWS STB

Following the devastating fires that swept through the Jonkershoek Valley in early 2009, a beacon of hope emerged – the establishment of a new station in Jonkershoek by the Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS).

This pivotal moment marked a significant expansion of our reach and impact, enabling us to extend our unwavering assistance to the four major Boland CapeNature Reserves: Jonkershoek, Limietberg, Kogelberg, and Hottentots Holland.

Our journey didn’t stop there. The base has since found a new home in the picturesque Idas Valley in Stellenbosch, where it continues to flourish and attract a growing number of dedicated volunteers. The community spirit that drives us is palpable, and the synergy between our Stellenbosch and Helderberg members is a force to be reckoned with.

These passionate individuals, with their fearless determination, have earned the affectionate nickname “The Mountain Goats.” It’s a moniker inspired by their tenacious spirit and willingness to conquer the toughest terrain while racing to combat fires.

Station Manager: Ian Harrison

Member Services: Jacques Vermeulen