Fires burn out of control in three provinces

Fires burn out of control in three provinces

3 October 2005

published by Mail&Guardian online

Bloemfontein, SouthAfrica — Firefighting teams are battling to extinguish 15 forest andveld fires that continue to burn out of control in Mpumalanga, Limpopo andKwaZulu-Natal, Working on Fire (WF) said on Monday. 

WF spokesperson Val Charlton said about 26 WF firefighting teams are battlingthe blazes across the northern parts of the country.

“Many of the crews have been without adequate rest for over a week,”she said.
WF on Monday issued a national warning, saying the fire risk in the northern andeastern parts of South Africa, including Gauteng, are bordering on code red.

“It’s so dry that when a fire starts, it’s like setting a match to petrol,”said Chris Austin, WF ground-operations manager.

“There is no question that in these conditions a cigarette butt tossed outa car window will start a fire.”

The WF programme is a partnership initiative between the national departments ofwater and forestry and local and provincial government, under the nationaldisaster-management unit, and private forestry-sector partners as a projectunder the government’s expanded public-works programme.

Trevor Wilson, WF coordinator in northern KwaZulu-Natal, said on Mondaycontinuing fires in the area are putting a lot of strain on firefighting teams.

“The Thandaza and Mbonambi teams have worked 20-hour days for the past 10days. Our firefighters are totally exhausted. All we can do now is wait for rain,”he said.

One of the main fires in the area, started by lightning on September 25, isstill burning near Nyalazi, north of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. 

WF said weather conditions predicted for the region for the next two days remain”hot and windy,” with the first sign of cooler weather only expectedon Thursday. No rain is forecast.

Charlton said the Ndondatha fire in an area west of Kwambonambi was extinguishedon Monday.

At least 7 500ha of forestry plantations and 1 000ha of conservation land weredestroyed.

Charlton said all WF teams across the country are on standby, with teams incooler areas being air-lifted to relieve colleagues.


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