Nightmare of veld fire burns cash in a flash

Nightmare of veld fire burns cash in a flash

24 July 2008

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South Africa — The escalating incidence of veld fires in Limpopo have become a nightmare for communities and businesspeople.

According to statistics a total of 268000 hectares of land in Limpopo were destroyed by veld fires last year.

Most of these fires occurred in Mopani and Vhembe more than in any other region.

Hundreds of blue gums, pine trees, indigenous trees and numerous properties and businesses were burnt to ashes.

The damage caused to crops amounted to R4million while more than R10million was lost in gutted businesses, properties and homes.

The provinces that experienced serious and debilitating wild fires last year were Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Eastern Cape.

About 2007 veld fires were reported in the five provinces and about 22 people lost their lives.

Approximately 100000 hectares of forests and commercial plantation and more than 200000 hectares of grazing were lost in the five provinces.

This resulted in psychological suffering, displacement and loss of production time during and after the fire.

It also had an extremely negative effect on the lives of communities.

Department of forestry and water affairs spokesman Lea Matlala said yesterday that the fires started naturally from the first weeks of July through to October.

She said her department has managed to establish 18 fire protection associations (FPA) in the province.

She said the associations comprised traditional leaders, ward councillors, church pastors, ordinary citizens and educators.

“The primary objective of the associations is to promote awareness of wild fires, disseminate information and identify the fire belts,” Matlala said.

“They will also help in educating the youth on how to combat fires in their residences.

“The associations will work in close cooperation with local municipalities, the department of local government and housing and the department of water affairs.”

Associations have been formed in Tubatse, Tzaneen, Ba-Phalaborwa, the Kruger National Park, Makhado, Thulamela, Elias Motswaledi, Thabazimbi, Lephalale, Letaba, Makhuduthamaga, Modimolle, Mokgophong, Lepelle Nkumbi, Musina, Fetakgomo and Polokwane.

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