Boland fire burns fynbos, vineyards and orchards

Wild fires in the Western Cape’s Boland region have damaged large areas of mountain fynbos, but farmers in the Wemmershoek area near Franschhoek, where the fire originated, reported few losses.

- Advertisement -

Farmers closer to Paarl were not so lucky however and with the fire still raging by midday on Wednesday, 30 January reports of burnt down vineyards and fruit orchards were coming in from several farms in the area. The Western Cape fire season that started on 1 December last year has kept fire fighters busy battling veld fires across the province for most of December and January.

At the start of the fire season fire-fighters of the Working on Fire programme (WoF) assisted SANParks and City of Cape Town wildland fire fighters to extinguish a fire in the Table Mountain National Park. Since then the 587 WoF fire fighters, who are stationed across the Western Cape in crews of up to 25, have responded to major veld fires in the Southern Cape region near George in the Cederberg area and most recently they have been struggling to bring under control a fire that started in the Wemmershoek mountains, near Franschhoek on Sunday, 27 January.

Franschhoek farmers’ association chairperson, Jan de Necker, told Farmer’s Weekly that the fire had been brought under control in Franschhoek and that no vineyards, orchards or farm buildings had been damaged by the fires. “One farmer suffered some damage to a water pipeline, but as far as I know there was no damage to farms. However, the fire has now spread to Paarl and we have been receiving reports that farms in that area are in danger,” he said.

- Advertisement -

William Bourbon-Leftley from near Wemmershoek said he suffered damages amounting to roughly R80 000 on electrical fencing due to the fire and some damage to one of his plum orchards. Agri Wes-Cape’s Porchia Adams was unable to confirm the extent of losses that farmers near Franschhoek and Paarl have suffered as a result of the fire, but at least 20ha of wine grapes and part of a citrus orchard had been burned down by late Wednesday afternoon.

According to reports the authorities have spent up to R1 million to combat fires in the Boland and that about 72 000ha of vegetation, fynbos and farmland have already been burnt. South African researchers announced last year that they would embark on a multi-million rand, internationally funded project, called the Fynbos Fire Project, to implement far reaching integrated fire management programmes in the fynbos biome.

At the time project coordinator, Tessa Oliver, said the project came as a response to the noticeable increase in the duration and intensity of unwanted wild fires with a number of fires being either major or catastrophic fires that have resulted in the loss of life, livelihoods and natural resources. The Fynbos Fire Project, which was mainly funded by a US$3,5 million grant (about R29 million) given by the Global Environment Facility Special Climate Change Fund, will run for three years.