SOUTH AFRICA: Over 42 000 hectares of grazing land on 35 farms were burnt in the Eastern Cape between 10 and 14 September 2017. The fire originated in Lady Grey and spread south east over Witteberg Mountain towards Barkly East. “The fire danger index was in the red over that period due to gale force winds and the extremely dry conditions,” said Piet Steyn, fire protection officer for the Barkly East Fire Protection Agency (FPA). The area is mountainous, which made the fire very difficult to fight, as it spread down various valleys and created numerous fire fronts,” he added. The affected farms support 35 farmers and 600 farm workers. Of the farms affected, 12 of them were totally burnt out, leaving no grazing land for livestock to feed on. 151 sheep and 6 cattle died in the fire. “Wildlife losses cannot be confirmed, however many carcasses have been seen,” said Steyn. The infrastructure damage costs are as yet unknown, however, numerous water pipes and fences were destroyed. “We can confirm no buildings or sheds were lost during the fires,” Steyn reported. As a result of damage to Eskom networks, the district was without electricity for several days.
No lives were lost but four people were injured while fighting the fire. “Assistance with bringing the fire under control was provided by no less than 70 farmers at any given time, along with 160 farm workers, four Working on Fire crews and the Joe Gqabi District Municipality Fire Department,” said Steyn. “Agriculture Eastern Cape assisted by sponsoring a spotter and Joe Gqabi District Municipality allocated funding towards helicopter costs.”
Source: Piet Steyn, fire protection officer, Barkly East Fire Protection Agency