Devastating FS fires investigated

Forensic investigations are under way to determine the cause of a wildfire that recently swept through farms 20km north of Bloemfontein in the Free State, causing massive damage to crops, livestock and infrastructure.
Issue Date: 30 March 2007

Forensic investigations are under way to determine the cause of a wildfire that recently swept through farms 20km north of Bloemfontein in the Free State, causing massive damage to crops, livestock and infrastructure.

A ccording to Henk Vermeulen of Free State Agriculture, the fire that broke out on 15 March and moved towards Maselspoort, is suspected to have started at the dumping grounds of the Glen Agricultural College. “is difficult to comment before we have come to any decisions, because there are possible court cases and claims to be made unless we are able to sort everything out in our meetings. people form the College are being very helpful, and we are trying to bring everyone together to act corporately,” he added.

Vermeulen said at least three farmers “lost everything” on their farms, with many others experiencing huge stock losses and losses of grazing land. ccording to Working on Fire (WoF), at last count 18 000ha of veld had been burnt. This is the area’s second-­largest fire in three years. It is the third fire that broke out in the province during the week starting 12 March. According to Malcolm Procter, control forester for the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, the Free is in for a bad fire season unless there are late rains. “This year 38 000ha of veld have already burnt due to the hot, dry weather in the province and the fire season hasn’t even started yet.” Piet van der Merwe, WoF national ground operations manager, said the below-average rainfall in the province is exacerbating the problem. – Gwenda van Zyl