Problem: how to reduce the wild fires that ravage Table Mountain every summer. Solution: install wooden fire extinguishers that are completely useless. It’s not as dumb as it sounds…
Porky Hefer (yes, we know) and Warren Lewis of Animal Farm, a creative consultancy in Cape Town, came up with the idea to highlight the plight of the already stretched Fire Department in charge of the mountain. Every summer, Table Mountain suffers from huge wild fires. Some are natural “but a large portion of these start with a human spark of stupidity or carelessness,” says Hefer.
So Animal Farm decided to install 65 wooden extinguishers in the The Table Mountain National Park, with a focus on fire hot spots, picnic areas and along all major walking trails, to make the point that it is almost impossible to stop a wild fire once it has started. Using a real fire extinguisher on one would be as effective as using this wooden one. The only way to stop the fires is to prevent them.
The instructions on the label are all about how people can prevent fires.
The Carpenters Shop, an Non Governmental Organisation setup to teach woodwork skills to the homeless and unemployed, were commissioned to carve the fire extinguishers from invasive alien trees that had been cleared from the Park. “These non-indigenous trees destabilise the natural environment. They drink all the water, Cause major erosion, suck up all the light and, most of all, spread their seed when they burn, causing even worse problems in years to come,” says Hefer.
The project was funded by Cape Union Mart, an outdoor clothing manufacturer and the extinguishers were installed by Chubb Fire, the major Fire extinguisher company in Cape Town.