Free State on a high fire alert

The Free State has been placed on a high fire alert by the province’s Umbrella Fire Association, said Thinus Steenkamp, the association’s general manager.

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He called on motorists not to discard cigarette butts and on the public to refrain from using power tools such as angle grinders and welders in the open. “We also call on landowners not to burn camps because of the dry and windy conditions,” he said.

Steenkamp advised landowners to inform the local fire protection associations if they need to leave their land and to appoint some in charge in their absence in case of veld fires.

“It’s important that we have access to farms, water sources and camps during fire outbreaks. It’s also difficult to move livestock without access to farms,” said Steenkamp.

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According to initial data more than 50 fires occurred in the province after a heat wave hit central South Africa last week. Steenkamp said a minimum of 25 000ha was destroyed in these fires. Fires were reported at Zastron, Rouxville, Ladybrand, Dewetsdorp, Bloemfontein, and Kestell.

“In some places it was so dry that flames actually burned into the soil. No serious injuries or loss of life have been reported so far,” said Steenkamp.