Nelspruit – Firefighters from Mpumalanga, the eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have been deployed en masse to assist with severe wildfires that are being driven by strong winds, the Working on Fire Programme said on Saturday.
Fifteen 22-strong crews have been mobilised in Mpumalanga where there are fires burning at Dullstroom and Graskop.
In addition to the ground resources, a spotter plane, four water-bombing fixed-wing aircraft and one of the Working on Fire Mil Mi8 helicopters are being used at Graskop, where a plantation fire is raging.
“Four 22-person helitack crews have been airlifted to the Rosedal-Senekal-Kestell region of the Eastern Free State, using the second Working on Fire Mi8 chopper.
“A total of seven fires are burning in this area of grassland and agricultural land, two of which are in the Willem Pretorius Nature Reserve. Visibility is bad due to smoke and this is hampering firefighting efforts,” Working on Fire added.
National Working on Fire Programme chief executive Johan Heine said the weather was expected to worsen before it changes.
“The wind is howling,” said Heine, “and we are anticipating that this will continue through Sunday. We have mobilised all available crews. Some crews are on standby and will be deployed where they are needed most.”
On Friday fires were burning in Cullinan in Gauteng and Mbazwane in northern KZN. Both were contained by late afternoon.
The Working on Fire Programme is a partnership initiative between the National Departments of Water and Forestry, Local and Provincial Government under the National Disaster Management Unit and private forestry sector partners as a project under Government’s Expanded Public Works Programme.