Veld fires destroy Newcastle farmland

Veld fires destroy Newcastle farmland

22 September 2010

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South Africa —  Newcastle farmers are counting the cost of damage caused by veld fires which razed vast tracts of farm land yesterday as hot and dry weather conditions prevailed in the area.

Firefighter Mxolisi Khoza said seven stock farms were affected. While several animals died in the fire, no human fatalities were reported.

Firefighters began battling the blaze in the morning and brought it under control by 7pm.

“The area has been experiencing fires throughout winter. Today’s fire, however, was particularly bad because of the strong winds. Livestock at the affected farms are being
evacuated to neighbouring farms,” said Khoza.

“Fire engines are too big for the job so we are using vans and skid units to fill up water from the fire engines. We don’t know where the fire started, or who did it, but the cause was human negligence,” he said.

The Newcastle Farmers Association said about 200ha of grazing land was razed.

Jannie Kemp’s farm, where sheds were also burnt, was the worst affected. Contacted for comment, Kemp, who sounded distraught, said: “I can’t talk now, my whole farm has burned down and I haven’t been to check my stock yet. Everything is gone,” he said.

The Mercury had briefly spoken to Kemp’s wife while trying to get hold of him earlier. “Some of the outbuildings are on fire. It’s (the fire) coming towards the main house now,” she said, before rushing to help put out the fire.

Temperatures soared to 34?C in northern KwaZulu-Natal yesterday, with strong winds exacerbating the already dry conditions as humidity levels stood at 10 percent.

“It’s very dry, windy and hot,” said weather forecaster Lucky Makhwedza.

“The weather conditions over the region are conducive to veld fires. Things might change by 10pm this evening (last night) as the wind dies down. We have some clouds pushing in that direction,” he said.

Makhwedza said the temperature would drop to 26?C today while the humidity was expected to rise to at least 40 percent.

Co-operative Governance Department spokesman Lennox Mabaso said a disaster management team had been dispatched to the area to assess the situation and provide assistance.

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