Some 55 000ha destroyed by veld fires in the Free State

No less than 55 000ha of grazing have been destroyed by veld fires in the Free State during this year’s fire season.

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This is considerably less than the 175 000ha recorded at the same time last season, according to Malcolm Procter, the agriculture department’s Deputy Director Forest and Veld Fire in Bloemfontein. Landowners must remain vigilant, however.
“We’ve been spared serious cold fronts accompanied by strong winds so far this season, but I’m afraid the worst is yet to come,” said Procter.

He said 30 000ha in the Golden Gate and adjacent areas in QwaQwa was burnt in a fire from Lesotho at the beginning of August. Earlier, 8 000ha was lost in the Boshof district, in a fire ostensibly caused by lightning. Meanwhile, 6 100ha have been burnt in the eastern Free State so far. CEO of the Free State Umbrella fire association, Thinus Steenkamp said R4,5 million worth of damage was caused by the fires here, with fire-fighting costs amounting to R500 000.

“Our work is seriously hampered by landowners who leave their farms unattended,” said Steenkamp. “We’ve often arrived on farms where we, for instance, could not gain access to water points or homesteads because of locked gates. “It’s a misdemeanour in terms of the Fire Act to leave a farm unattended during the veld fire season. Landowners are also compelled by law to report any veld fires on their land to the local Fire Protection Officers and the Fire Protection association.”

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They should also be aware that fires are prohibited in the Free State until the first 25mm of rain in spring. “Nobody is allowed, for instance, to burn off the winter grazing during this time to stimulate new growth,” said Steenkamp.  Mpumalanga has been spared serious fires so far this season, according to Mpumalanga Agriculture CEO Hennie Laas.
He was, however, concerned about the next six to eight weeks, and also called on landowners to remain vigilant.

“We haven’t had any major veld fires in North West this year because there is nothing left on the veld to burn,” said Agri North West president, Cor Janse van Vuuren. He said this was due to the devastating drought there, and animal fodder was urgently needed.

Potential donors can contact Agri North West on 018 632 2987.