Warnings ahead of fire season

More than 244 500ha were lost to veld fires in the Free State in the 2012/2013 veld fire season and authorities are concerned that the pattern may be repeated in the 2013/2014 season.

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This opinion was expressed by the Free State umbrella veld fire association’s general manager, Thinus Steenkamp. “The Eastern Free State, roughly from Clarence to Memel and Vrede, is particularly vulnerable to veld fires. The area received ample rain during summer and the fuel load is very high. We call on landowners to start making firebreaks as a matter of urgency,” Steenkamp said.

“Landowners are allowed to continue with firebreaks until the end of June. From August onwards the risk of strong winds is too high. We are very concerned about the drought-stricken areas in the western and southern parts of the province.” Steenkamp said landowners should inform their workers about the dangers of veld fires. Some of the most devastating fires last year were caused by coals and open fires from workers’ dwellings. Therefore firebreaks around workers’ houses were crucial.

“Farmers and landowners should also ensure that firefighting equipment is in good working order and they should remain especially alert during strong wind. “Everybody must remain vigilant – our province cannot afford to lose hundreds of thousands of hectares to veld fires every winter,” Steenkamp said.

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The agriculture department’s deputy director: forest and veld fire in Bloemfontein, Malcolm Procter, said that Transnet had agreed to make firebreaks for a distance of 510km along railway lines in the province.