Extensive veldfires continue in the Free State

The annual scourge of veldfires was continuing in the Free State, with numerous major and widespread fires actively burning on Sunday night in the areas of Smithfield and Reddersburg, as well Steynsrus and Ventersburg, among others.

Extensive veldfires continue in the Free State
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The Free State Umbrella Fire Protection Association (FSUFPA) consequently issued a high fire index warning for today, Monday 4 September, as well as the next few days, because of the prevailing weather conditions characterised by extremely strong winds. Yesterday, some of the fires rapidly spread as far as 30km from the point of origin, pushed along by strong gusts of wind.

Johan Breytenbach, FSUFPA general manager, said no confirmed statistics were available yet, but high losses of livestock, game and infrastructure could be expected. “We call on members of the public to take the utmost precaution and to act with extreme caution in order to prevent further fires.”

He warned that the fire season was expected to last for at least a month to six weeks because of the dry conditions and the high combustible load following the good rains in summer 2022/23.

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Dr Roy Jankielsohn, member of the Free State Provincial Legislature, said during a virtual setting of the legislature on 1 September that the province’s farmers urgently needed government support during and after veldfires.

“Veldfires cause the excruciating deaths of hundreds of livestock, the loss of thousands of hectares of grazing and the destruction of infrastructure, putting a huge financial burden on commercial farmers, subsistence farmers as well as emerging farmers. We are concerned about the fact that most municipalities in the province failed to render assistance as far as preparations for and assistance during the fire season,” he added.

The provincial government, according to Jankielsohn, had a responsibility to render assistance to fire-affected farmers in mitigating the financial burden caused by fires, especially during the period immediately after the carnage caused by the flames. He said that adequate funds should be made available directly after the disaster had struck, when feed and other assistance were required to sustain the remaining animals that had been affected.

Free State Agriculture (FSA) reiterated its urgent call on members of the public for donations of animal feed after the widespread fires. FSA’s banking details are available on the organization’s web page vrystaatlandbou.co.za.

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Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.