Veld fires destroy thousands of hectares

Veld fires destroy thousands of hectares

09 August 2011

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South Africa — Organised agriculture expressed concern about the lack of basic veld fire prevention measures on government land, following veld fires in Mpumalanga’s Ermelo and Volksrust districts that caused damage worth millions of rand.

On Johan and Heleen Bosch’s Klipfontein farm, their homestead, workers’ houses and livestock were destroyed by the Ermelo fire, which decimated about 8 500ha in total. Johannes Kloppers, chairperson of the Ermelo East Farmers Association, said, “The fire started on 2 July about 20km out of town on the Piet Retief Road in the direction of Sheepmoor.

It began on state-owned land and was accompanied by strong winds of up to 80km/h. The fire was eventually extinguished late in the afternoon by farmers, the SA National Defence Force, teams from Eskom and neighbouring mines, as well as teams from the adjoining forestry industry.”

Aeroplanes couldn’t be used because of the strong winds and heavy smoke. TAU SA regional chairperson Henry Geldenhuys, from the farm Vaalbank, also suffered damage in the Ermelo fire. “If it weren’t for the firebreaks on my farm, the damage would’ve been much, much worse,” he said, adding that 30 head of cattle, 10 blesbok and 10 emus were killed on the affected farms. “Two young farmers, Charl and Pikkie Vorster, sustained light injuries. The total damage, including destroyed grazing and plantations, is estimated at R11 million.”

Geldenhuys said they’re concerned about the lack of firebreaks and basic veld fire prevention measures on government land. “When a government official came to meet the farmers, he wasn’t even sure if the land where the fire started belonged to government and couldn’t give an indication of who is responsible for the management and control of the land.” – Annelie Coleman

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