South Africa – Two men – one a Spoornet firefighter – have lost theirlives while battling a blaze, which ravaged farms and small-holdings in theMidlands on Monday.
The firefighter was killed when the fire truck he was travelling in overturnedon the Fort Nottingham Road at about 4pm, while responding to a call from a bedand breakfast in Lidgetton, which was threatened by fire.
Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said the man had sustained extensiveinjuries after he had rolled the fire truck and died on the scene.
His colleagues remained at the scene and struggled to salvage any equipment theycould from the damaged vehicle to aid in efforts to fight the fire.
An Msunduzi fire department spokesperson said that one farm worker had beenburnt to death while trying to extinguish a fire on a farm near Fort Nottingham.
“He was driving a tractor and the wind changed direction suddenly, puttinghim in the path of the fire,” he said.
The fires raged around the Nottingham Road, Curries Post and Lidgetton areas asfarmers’ associations and fire teams banded together to try to control the blaze,which threatened homes and livestock.
Senior divisional fire officer Essack Khan said all resources had beendispatched to the major areas of concern and that he had never had a day like onMonday.
He said that, even if they had 10 more vehicles at their disposal, it would notmake a difference, as “there are just too many calls, both grass fires andhouse fires”.
He said that residents from the Karkloof and outlying areas near Howick werebeing evacuated for their own safety.
Vehicles from the Pietermaritzburg station had been sent to assist district andSpoornet firefighters, who were stretched thin in their areas.
There was also a large fire in the Impendle area, where five informal dwellingsburnt down and personnel continued to fight a fire in Lidgetton well into thenight.
A spokesperson for Spoornet firefighters said that extensive damage had beencaused and that that a number of people had lost their homes. Strong winds anddry conditions had worsened the situation.
KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union President Robin Barnsley said the effects ofthese fires would be far-reaching. He said the economic backlash would not gounnoticed.
“Fodder flows will have been disrupted and if any timber plantations havebeen damaged, it will certainly have an economic impact.”
With the present weather and soil conditions, a fire at this stage might wellaffect the quality of growth produced in the spring, as well as increasing thepotential for erosion, depending on rainfall.
For Tuesday, the weather bureau has issued warnings of very dangerous fire risksacross the entire province, with strong to gale-force south-westerly winds overthe South Coast spreading north later.
But some respite could be in store as the weather bureau also warned ofsnowfalls on the higher ground of the province in the evening, accompanied by a60 percent chance of showers over much of KwaZulu-Natal.