More fire fears as four provinces burn

More fire fears as four provinces burn

26 September 2005

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Johannesburg, South Africa — Firefighters were put on standby in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape on Monday after fears that blazes in four other provinces could spread, a public-private firefighting organisation said.

Working on Fire (WOF) spokesperson Val Charlton said fires are raging in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. A fire in the Free State is still raging but is being calmed by cooler weather in the area.

There are now fears that fires could start in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

The weather conditions are coded “red” in terms of the National Fire Danger Rating System, and a mere spark could set off a major blaze, Charlton said.

“Fresh crews have been mobilised from WOF bases in the Eastern and Western Cape,” she said. “The very high temperatures across the country and strong winds with low humidity are creating perfect conditions for fire.

“The extreme weather conditions are blamed for the widespread fires experienced over the last week. During this time, a mere spark is sufficient to ignite the dry veld.”

Charlton said the fires have caused damage running into millions of rands.

“With the exception of the Free State, all the fires are in forested areas. There has been millions of rands’ worth of damage,” Charlton said.

Two fires in Tzaneen are under control, but the temperature is expected to reach 38 degrees Celsius in some parts of the Limpopo on Monday.

“We are expecting another busy day in the Limpopo,” Charlton said.

Three fires in Mpumalanga continue to burn uncontrolled.

Thirteen 22-person crews are supporting local firefighters in Mpumalanga.

“In Mpumalanga, a very strong wind is blowing. It is also very dry,” Charlton said.

Crews remained at the fire lines throughout the night, but were to be relieved on Monday. Aircraft were dispatched at first light on Monday.

In the Free State, the Rosendal fire is under control. It is still burning in inaccessible areas and along a long front.

The burnt area is estimated at 12 000ha.

Seven WOF crews were deployed throughout the night at hot spots along the line and would continue on duty throughout Monday.

A fire at the Willem Pretorius Reserve has been doused.

“Cooler weather is coming into the Free State and the wind direction had changed, which has helped firefighters.”

Two crews were to be redeployed to Mbazwane in northern Zululand on Monday, where a large fire continues to burn out of control.

About 3 000ha of the plantation have been damaged.

In central Zululand, nine fires that were burning on Sunday night have been brought under control.

“Firefighters are mopping up — working through the area to ensure that there is no material left burning that could cause the fire to reignite,” Charlton said. “Cooler weather conditions are moving in and are expected to bring some relief to exhausted firefighters.”

Fifteen fires raged in the Richards Bay and St Lucia areas in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday. Firefighters battled 20 fires in the same area on Saturday, many caused by lightning strikes.

Land owners and members of the public have been asked to avoid lighting fires and to ensure that open cooking fires are not left unattended at any time.


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