Zimbabwe–– It is winter and veld fires are a common occurrence. Amidst the smoke and strong winds, it is common to see black-shouldered birds patiently perched on power lines and/or tress awaiting rats and mice as they flee the raging fires. Intense fires destroy thousands acres of vegetation in protected areas such as national parks, forest ranges, major highway sideways and grazing lands across the country annually. Human life, livestock and wild animals have been lost as a result.
The grass fires are a major concern for everyone especially this period through to October; they quickly get out of control and can cause serious damage in agricultural and forested lands.
Forest fire officials encourage people not to light grass fires or burn debris. Burning dry grass in fields or yard debris can spread to nearby forests.
At the weekend government launched the National Fire Awareness Campaign or National Fire Prevention Week at Matabiswana Village in Insuza, Matabeleland North province, to raise responsiveness in the community against starting needless forest fires.
This Forestry Commission initiative is an excellent inventiveness. The campaign will be a waste of resources if stakeholders cannot sustain it and/or spread it across the country given the extent of environmental damage from unwanted forest fires started by people digging for mice and/or hunting for small game such as rabbits as well as throwing out a cigarette stub through the window of a moving vehicle. This is commonplace, but Zimbabwe must develop a culture against littering.
It is also important that the public must consider no-burn options. Many landfills offer designated days when yard debris can be disposed of at little or no cost. The Forestry Commission should also consider advising the public about composting. On-site chipping may be feasible. Limbs and other debris may be piled for wildlife habitat if located where it does not pose a wildfire hazard.
Carelessly lit and tended fires and smoking are a major concern throughout the burning season. In fact, forest guards have seen people triggering fires and in some cases the accused have managed to escape.
The phenomenon, witnessed every year, destroys flora and fauna in vast tracts of the forest area. Zimbabwe did not receive enough rain this year and most areas have gone dry. Dry weather due to absence of moisture in the air causes the fire to spread rapidly.
Without a doubt Zimbabwes eucalypt forest has evolved to cope with low and high-intensity bushfires situations. Eucalyptus forests in the country depend on fire for regeneration. However, indigenous forests in Matabeleland, Gokwes Mafungautsi Plateau, Chimanimani and many others are much more likely to be destroyed by fire. The sensitivity of forest communities to fire is the main reason these areas have been listed as threatened under the Forestry Act.
For the record, the Matabiswana launch had its beginning in the US in 1911. It is held annually to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire. On the 40th anniversary (1911) of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America (FMANA), the oldest membership section of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), sponsored the first National Fire Prevention Day, deciding to observe the anniversary as a way to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.
In May 1919, when the NFPA held its 23rd annual meeting in Ottawa at the invitation of the Dominion Fire Prevention Association (DFPA), the NFPA and DFPA both passed resolutions urging governments in the US and Canada to support the campaign for a common Fire Prevention Day.
This was expanded to Fire Prevention Week in 1922. The NFPA that has officially sponsored Fire Prevention Week since its inception selects the annual theme for Fire Prevention Week.
When US President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week on October 410 1925, he noted that in the previous year some
15 000 lives were lost to fire in the US. Calling the loss startling, Coolidges proclamation stated: This waste results from the conditions which justify a sense of shame and horror; for the greater part of it could and ought to be prevented . . . It is highly desirable that every effort be made to reform the conditions which have made possible so vast a destruction of the national wealth.
In Canada, the first national Fire Prevention Day proclamation was issued by the Governor-General in 1919. The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8 to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about 9 km² in Chicago, Illinois.
On the flag of Chicago, the second star commemorates the fire. The exact cause was never determined. The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine OLeary.
In 1893, Michael Ahern, the Chicago Republican reporter who wrote the OLeary account, admitted he had made it up as colourful copy. The barn was the first building to be consumed by the fire, but the official report could not determine the exact cause of it.
The fires spread was aided by a drought prior to the fire and strong winds from the south-west that carried flying embers towards the heart of Chicago. Furthermore, the city did not react quickly enough, and at first, residents were not concerned about it, not realising the high risk of conditions. City officials estimated that more than 300 people died in the fire and over 100 000 were left homeless.