South Africa — About 20 000ha of mountain fynbos has been razed in a major veld fire in the Baviaanskloof Game Reserve, but no serious damage has been done to the vital Kouga water catchment area or to the environment.
The epicentre of the Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site, the reserve is one of the provinces flagship tourism attractions, while the Kouga Dam in the eastern part of the reserve supplies about a quarter 23 000 mega-litres a year of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan municipalitys water.
East Cape Parks Board cluster manager Wayne Erlank said he had flown over the burnt area and had got a good idea of its size and severity.
It went through the southern part of the reserve along the Kouga River. The situation is not that bad in our view because fynbos needs to burn to regenerate anyway. The fire also stayed up in the mountains and out of the main game areas.
At least half the fynbos burned is 25 to 30 years old, the oldest it should get for optimal conservation.
Erlank said no animal carcasses were spotted and it was not possible to tell how badly tortoises had been hit, for example. They usually retreat into their shells to allow fires to pass over them. This works for the faster fires, but they get cooked in their shells in the slower fires, he said.
Bush fire specialists Working on Fire had sent teams from Stutterheim and Jansenville and a helicopter to help his team tackle the blaze.
He could not confirm reports that the fire had started after a farm firebreak operation got out of control.
Gamtoos Irrigation Board manager Pierre Joubert said the fire was in the catchment about 35km upstream from the dam wall, but it is a very rocky area and I cannot see it having caused significant erosion.