200 000ha lost to veld fires

The eastern Free State has lost 200 000ha of grazing in 12 veld fires over the past week.

"We are still investigating the causes of the fires,” said Thinus Steenkamp, general manager of the Free State Umbrella Fire Association. “Indications are that at least one of the fires was caused by arson.”

The fires occurred in Arlington, Senekal, Warden and Harrismith, among other areas. Conditions were exacerbated by strong winds.

"We are still in the process of determining the full extent of the damage. The initial estimation is that landowners and farmers suffered damage to the value of R20 million, at least,” said Steenkamp.

Up to 25 people from 15 fire-fighting teams were deployed. Steenkamp and his team are still investigating livestock losses. No humans were injured or lost in the fires.