South Africa — A cold front on Wednesday brought relief to some parts of the country ravaged by veld fires, although Mpumalanga and Limpopo were still high risk areas, Working on Fire (WoF) said.
Spokesperson Val Charlton said weather conditions cooled in KwaZulu-Natal with only two fires which were contained in Eshowe.
“The Fire Danger Index (FDI) for the province has dropped to high yellow although a wind warning has been issued.
“Mpumalanga and Limpopo remain high risk areas with two fires burning,” she said.
The forest fire at Sjona Jona near Nelspruit, which has been burning for three days, was finally contained on Wednesday morning.
Charlton said Gauteng was now affected with a fire burning in Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve where conditions remained hot and dry. The Eastern Cape was now out of danger as a cold front was moving about the province.
On Tuesday 13 fires were reported across Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
WoF’s national co-ordinator Michelle Kleinhans said the worst blazes had been in plantations and nature conservation areas in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal, which were at the heart of the country’s forestry industry.
WoF project manager Fred Mokgope said fire fighting teams from the Western Cape had been moved to help fight the blazes.
“No industry can continuously be hit hard by ongoing fire, it takes its toll eventually. South Africans must be responsible with fire when moving through forestry areas,” he said.
In KwaZulu-Natal, fire fighters in Pietermaritzburg fought 165 fires in the first nine days of September alone.
The city’s fire operations manager Essack Khan said August had also been a busy month with 220 veld fires claiming five lives.
Many of the farms in Pietermaritzburg’s outlying rural areas did not have fire breaks. He said hot weather and dry winds had helped spread fires.
The KwaZulu-Natal health department reported last week that 34 people had died in fires.
Operations manager for the KwaZulu-Natal Fire Protection Association Simon Thomas said all controlled burning of agricultural land in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo had been banned.
Free State agriculture MEC Mamiki Qhabathe gave farmers affected by recent veld fires bales of fodder over the weekend.
Seven of South Africa’s nine provinces have been hit recently by about 100 fires, fanned by strong winds.
About 30 lives were lost in KwaZulu-Natal alone. While there had been fewer human fatalities in other provinces, thousands of animals died and tens of thousands of hectares of land were destroyed.