Namibia –– A forest ranger here said he was shocked by the attitude of community members who allegedly looked on as a veld fire raged at the Hobatere Lodge in the Kunene Region recently. Hennie Kakondo, who works for the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry at Opuwo, said 4 674 hectares of land was destroyed during the veld fire, which burned for four days at Hobatere, situated about 15 kilometres south of the Werda Gate. The fire broke out on 08 July, and was only extinguished on 11 July. Kakondo told Nampa on Tuesday that the fire could have been extinguished earlier if community members in the area had been more involved. People operating in the area were not involved in the extinguishing of the veld fire, which had broken out in their own backyard for reasons only known to themselves, he said. Kakondo claimed that the livestock-farming communities who reside in the vicinity of the lodge, were relaxed, and only watched the grass burning about one kilometre away, without reacting. We had to go and call villagers to come and assist, and when we were done they demanded payment of N.dollars 500 for their services, said the forest ranger. Only nine community members reportedly helped to fight the fire over two days. Luckily, no animals were harmed, and only a few telephone poles and some camps on the eastern side of Hobatere were damaged. Kakondo was further disappointed that the people involved in fighting the fire had little to eat, apart from the maize meal they received from the office of the regional governor. He noted that in the communal areas in the Kunene Region, farmers who are not able to fight veld fires give contributions in the form of money or livestock to assist the other members who fight the fires. At Hobatere, only the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, and Ministry of Environment and Tourism officials were involved in fighting the fire. Kakondo told Nampa that as per the Forest Act 12 of 2001, a person found guilty of lighting a veld fire is fined N.dollars 4 000 or six months imprisonment, while failing to assist in fighting a veld fire carries a penalty of N.dollars 2 000 or six months imprisonment. Kakondo could not say what the cause of the veld fire at Hobatere was. Nampa learned on Wednesday that the Hobatete Lodge closed down over a year ago, and there are no people living there currently. According to police records at the Werda Gate, the Hobatere Lodge closed on 04 January 2011 after the lodge burned down, and a police case (Cr. 02/01/11) was opened, because arson was suspected as the cause of the fire.