Namibia — Alerted by a devastating fire that ruined prime farming areas and killed scores of wild animals over the weekend, a group of farmers yesterday collectively snuffed out another blaze that had started amid the smouldering vegetation.
A ruinous blaze that started on one farm and eventually affected up to 16 farms in the Dordabis area was extinguished but another fire reportedly caused by some smouldering tree trunks that started at around 13h30 was spotted and extinguished.
Confirming this incident to New Era yesterday, the owner of Kowas Game Ranch, Danie Strauss said there is a pressing need among farmers to first extinguish all the possible fire outbreaks that may arise before attending to assessing their losses.
“It’s really a nervous period for all of us here and everyone is vigilant,” said Strauss.
Attempts are being made by farmers to put out all smouldering blazes.
His farm is located next to Neuhof Kowas from where the fire originally started during the recent inferno that lasted four days in which he lost 90 percent of game – the mainstay of his business.
It is believed that the major fire outbreak that destroyed over 40 000 hectares of farmland and game at different farms was caused by sparks from an exhaust pipe of a grader.
“The fire was caused by the spark coming from the exhaust of the grader and not from the blade,” added Strauss.
What made matters worse is that the fire spark caught onto the already dry winter grass and the windy conditions made it catch on, destroying everything in its wake, especially wild game and grazing.
Strauss said that lessons can be learnt from this terrible incident and future veld fires can be avoided.
“The wind was too strong and the fire spread 100 meters in just three to four seconds. So the lesson is not to use a grader when the grass is dry or when the wind is blowing,” explained Strauss, who is also the president of the Namibia Trophy Hunting Association (NAPHA).
As for now, most of the farmers are joining hands in fighting possible fire outbreaks from smouldering camelthorn trees and bushes, while at the same time also going round to put down any half dead animal that they might come across.
By yesterday, efforts were being made to check the damaged environment, and placing bunches of grass for the existing wild game to eat for their survival.
“Our aim is to keep the ones surviving alive by giving them grass and ensure that the fire is not burning anywhere,” said Strauss. Restocking of game is now the major challenge.
A terrible stench of dead game still fills the air as the affected farmers decided to rather burn the remaining carcasses for health reasons. Although numbers cannot be provided as to how many animals were affected, the different kind of species that perished in the blaze range from springboks, gemsbok, kudu, impalas, oryx and black wildebeest.
Asked why the dead animals cannot be provided to the local community for meat, Strauss said that the meat is not fit for consumption.
“We cannot give the carcasses. They are rotten; the animals were traumatised and are smelling badly. Some are even in a decomposing state,” he said. The major challenge now is that the grass that has been placed out in the affected veld is not being eaten by the existing game, and a certain chemical called Malasa Syrup is being sprayed on the grass to stimulateconsumption.
Meanwhile, help has been steadily flowing in for the affected farmers of Dordabis since the fire outbreak ended on Sunday.
So far Kowas Game Ranch has received three truckloads of grass, which is equivalent to 30 tonnes, for his existing game. Most of this supply comes from farmers in the southern part of the country. Some insurance officials were also present over the weekend to assess the situation for claims.
NAPHA will be holding an executive members’ meeting on Friday to discuss the way forward with regard to insurance claims and compensation for damages. By the time this paper went to print, the Dordabis Farmers Association was meeting over the same issue. It is however anticipated that it would take a couple of weeks before comprehensive cost assessment can be made.