Free State farmers urged to prepare for wildfire season

The Free State Umbrella Fire Protection Association (FSUPA) has developed a fuel danger rating to ensure the most effective assessment and fire suppression and prevention operations possible in the province.

The Free State Umbrella Fire Protection Association (FSUPA) has developed a fuel danger rating to ensure the most effective assessment and fire suppression and prevention operations possible in the province.

This was according to Johan Breytenbach, general manager of the association.

He told Farmer’s Weekly that this would enable fire prevention services to gauge a specific locations’ fuel-load intensity, the possible impact of a fire, as well as the infrastructure and tools needed to suppress any wildfires.

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“This year, we are faced with a particularly high fuel load in the province, following the good rain at the beginning of the year. High fuel loads cause high-intensity fires. These fires can reach temperatures as high as 500°C. Such fires are extremely difficult to suppress.”

It was expected that this year’s wildfire season would stretch into late spring and early summer because of the late arrival of winter.

Exceptionally high maximum temperatures were also expected in spring and summer because of the El Niño weather system, which was conducive to the outbreak of wildfires.

Breytenbach called on landowners to compile a fire prevention and management plan specifically for their properties.

Such a plan should ideally be based on the topography of the land, the human activity on the land, and the availability of infrastructure, among other aspects.

It was also important for landowners to join an active and effective local fire protection association.

These measures did not only pertain to agricultural land, but also to state-owned and municipal land.

“People tend to react emotionally to the outbreak of a fire, resulting in hasty decisions that could end up in disaster. Forewarned is forearmed. A well-thought-out plan would infinitely improve fire prevention, suppression, as well as reduce unnecessary and often dangerous risks,” he explained.

FSUPA had meanwhile also been mandated by the provincial disaster management authority to assist with the development of wildfire management practices for the province.

Breytenbach said he was grateful for the co-operation between the association and the local, as well as provincial, authorities to stem the carnage caused by wildfires.

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