Raging wildfires that have destroyed nearly 100 000ha in the western Free State since Sunday, 18 October, are being fanned by strong winds.
The fires reportedly started on Sunday when service delivery protesters burned tyres on the R708 road between Hertzogville and Christiana.
Flames from the burning tyres was thought to have spread to the surrounding veld, from where they fanned out to Hertzogville, Boshof, Bultfontein and Hoopstad, according to Gys Olivier, chairperson of the Hertzogville District Farmers’ Union.
He described the burnt areas as something akin to a lunar landscape, “eerily quiet and devoid of life”.
However, Olivier said the affected farmers were heartened by all the support that had poured in.
“I have to commend the Working on Fire teams for doing their utmost to contain the inferno. The assistance we received from all sides gave us the courage and resolve to stay positive. The affected districts functioned in a unified manner, forging ahead to fight the inferno. It goes without saying that we are hurt and shocked to the core, but we are not without hope,” he said.
The true extent of the damage was still being ascertained, according to Olivier.
One Hertzogville farmer lost livestock valued at R900 000, and the damage to the infrastructure on his farm amounted to R3 million, he said.
Various reports of livestock succumbing to the blaze had also been received, with farmers still searching for animals that fled the blaze. In one case, a farmer found some of his cattle on a farm that was about “seven farms away” from his property.
Free State Agriculture (FSA) made R100 000 available from its disaster fund for the transportation of animal feed to the affected areas.
Meanwhile, Dr Jack Armour, FSA’s operations manager, called for extreme vigilance to prevent further wildfires due to the strong wind and high level of combustible matter on the veld, especially in the western parts of the province.
Phone Elaine Olivier, coordinator of animal feed and other donations for the affected farmers, on 082 787 9660 if you would like to donate. Funds can be deposited directly into FSA’s disaster fund:
Account: 470 940 670