Fighting fire with fire

Fighting fire with fire

31 January 2008

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South Africa — A raging veld-fire has destroyed close to 12 000 hectares of fynbos on the Elandsberg mountains between Wellington and Voël-vleidam

The fire which started last Monday in the foothills of the mountain quickly spread due to the dry, hot weather, as well as raging southern winds.

A large part of the blaze occurred on the edge of the Bartholo­meus Klip nature reserve.

The reserve boasts more than 800 species of fynbos, as well as an abundance of game, including, Spring­bok, Zebra and both Buffalo, Bontebok and Eland.

But, said farm manager, Mike Gregor, a fire here has been long over due.

“This part of the mountain has not burnt for the past 24 years and it is important for the fynbos to burn.”

Fynbos thrives on fires in order for the plant to regenerate itself.

“We were however worried that if the fire spread past the foothills of the mountain, that it would spread onto farms, destroying homes and farmland.“

In a joint effort between Cape Nature, Cape Winelands fire department, Working on Fire and local residents, the blaze was contained in the foothills and spread up the mountain in the direction of Wol­seley. Helicopters were also used to help douse the fire.

But just as the fire seemed to be under control last Wednesday evening, the flames once again moved down the slopes of the Elandsberg, threatening the farms again.

With the help of renowned forester and fire-fighter, Barry Stander, it was decided to burn a fire-break and in doing so lead the fire to burn itself out eventually.

“This is known as fighting fire with fire.”

On Thursday evening this technique proved to be successful, with only small fires still burning in the kloofs of the mountain on Friday.

A spokesperson for the fire department said that due to the current heat wave and dry circumstances, the entire region is currently under threat of veld-fires. Utmost care must be taken when handling any open flames.

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