South Africa’s dry winter provinces – KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and Eastern Cape – are facing a dangerous fire season, with authorities warning people to take care when working with fire.
Ginge Hudson, KZN/Free State/Eastern Cape cluster manager for the government’s Working on Fireprogramme, said good rains during the summer meant “fuel loads” were high, raising the risk of out-of-control fires.
“Abandoned camp fires, rubbish burning and landowners burning at the wrong time of day all raise the risks of runaway fires,” Hudson warned this week.
The province’s fire season is from mid-May to the end of October, with the risk factor for runaway fires largely dependent on weather conditions.
“When conditions are hot and dry, the environment is just right for fire,” Hudson said.
Landowners, especially farmers, were asked to take special precautions with controlled burning. They were advised to burn in the late afternoon when there was less wind and conditions were cooler.
“A runaway fire in the morning spreads very quickly compared to one that breaks its boundaries late in the day,” he said.
Commercial plantation areas and urban communities bordering bushveld were high fire-risk areas.
The fire danger index for KZN is now averaging yellow, although Zululand is far drier than the rest of the province. Many small fires, started unintentionally by people collecting honey, had been reported over the past two weeks, Hudson said. The danger index would rise as winter progressed.
Hudson said it was important for neighbours to liase on burning agreements and to inform fire wardens and fire control centres of their intention to burn. Permission was needed before any fire could be started.
It was the responsibility of landowners to familiarise themselves with the Veld and Forest Fire Act, he said.