Outbreak of blazes pushes firemen to limit

Outbreak of blazes pushes firemen to limit

1 November 2005

published by The Herald online


PORT ELIZABETH — FIFTEEN new blazes in Nelson Mandela Bay sawfire fighters being tested to the limit again yesterday.

The new fires brought the number of veld fires in the city since October 24 to astaggering 130.

And it has been revealed that a number of the city’s fire-fighting vehicleshave been standing idle because of mechanical faults. 

Doctors meanwhile, have expressed concern about the possible impact of the smokeon the health of residents of the city.

The largest fire that is “still raging out of control” is in the ElandsRiver region where an area of 15km by 10km has already been destroyed, accordingto municipal spokesman Lourens Schoeman. 

“No buildings have been damaged so far, but a tractor and implements weredestroyed,” said Schoeman.

A helicopter was called in to help contain a “raging blaze” in theTsitsikamma and Kareedouw area.

Val Charlton, an advocacy and awareness officer of the Jansenvillebased Work onFire team, said the helicopter – which belongs to their organisation – wassent with a bambi bucket to assist firefighters in the Longmore area. 

 The bucket, which is attached to the helicopter via cables, holds 2 000litres of water.

In the Marine Drive area, part of the 8km by 2km section that had been destroyedat the weekend, the blaze had started again and fire fighters were monitoringthe vicinity.

Schoeman said the municipality had already spent R400 000 on fuel for firetenders and extra time for the firefighters in combating the 130 blazes.

“Most of the fires were caused by the hot, dry and windy conditions, butit isbelieved that several were caused by burning cigarette butts discarded in theveld,” Schoeman said.

A number of fire department vehicles are non-operational and were just standingin the workshop.

Even though Schoeman could not confirm the number, he said there were “quite anumber of vehicles”.

He said: “They have not been standing there for a very long time. 

It’s just that because of impenetrable areas during this hectic period some ofthem broke down and had to be taken to the workshop for repairs.”

Schoeman claimed the fight against the rise of the fires had “takena toll” on some of the vehicles.

Yesterday, thick palls of smoke hung over the city as fire fighters battled tocontain blazes.

The smoke, which forced many people to keep doors and windows closed, caused areddish or yellowish haze, spoiling the sunny weather.

Ear, eye and nose specialist, Dr Robert Schemmer, said: “The smoke could havean impact – more on the lungs than on the nose.” 

The doctor said that the symptoms of sinusitis could also be worsened.

“It (smoke) aggravates asthma,” said Dr Pieter Rossouw.

The GP said one of his patients, who was suffering from asthma, was admitted tothe hospital yesterday afternoon.

Dr Adam Jameel said the smoke could lead to eye, chest and nasal problems.

“It could lead to respiratory problems and affect mainly patients with nasalproblems.”

Doctors said the impact of the smoke could either be long or short term. “Inthe long run it will be a problem,” said Rossouw.

According to Dr Bongani Mabaso, overexposure to smoke could lead to drowsinessdue to the inhalation of the carbon monoxide in it.

“It can also lead to inhalation complications, such as bronchitis,” he said.

Mabaso said the smoke also contained toxins that could lead to skin problems.

The fires had caused chaos in Summerstrand, Walmer and Humewood and there was apower failure at the weekend.


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