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City comes togetherin fighting veld fire

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“We lost between 800 and 1 000 hectares of grazing land. More than 80% of the 1 800 hectares of land has been burnt. This is tragic as it is a huge portion of our land”

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ABOUT a thousand hectares of grazing land was destroyed following a massive veld fire at the Dronfield Nature Reserve on the Boshof road on Wednesday night.

The cause of the fire is unknown but it is believed to have started on the Boshof road.

Fire fighters, joined by farmers and Kimberley residents, assisted in the battle to bring the flames under control, continuing until late into the night as the blaze spread across several kilometres.

According to the senior manager in the De Beers Ecology Division, Dr Cornè Anderson, the blaze was a massive blow to the farm.

“We lost between 800 and 1 000 hectares of grazing land. More than 80% of the 1 800 hectares of land has been burnt. This is tragic as it is a huge portion of our land,” he said.

Anderson added that they also lost several animals in the fire.

“We lost one antelope, one springbok, two Cape Cobras, a tortoise and a hare. Bigger game managed to escape the flames and we were fortunate in that no human lives were lost.”

Anderson said it was difficult to calculate the damage in monetary terms.

“A large section of grazing land has been lost and it is difficult to estimate how long it will take us to recover from this loss as the veld is very dry and we are in desperate need of rain. We will have to feed the surviving animals if this situation is prolonged,” he said.

He said they managed to extinguish the fire after midnight.

“The fire brigade and fire fighting association members, including farmers, assisted in extinguishing the flames. We managed to extinguish the blaze after midnight and we only headed home at about 2am in the morning after ensuring that the entire fire was out. The people really came out in their numbers to assist and we are very grateful,” he said.

A clarion call was made by farmers on Wednesday evening via social media where they requested firefighters and other farmers to assist in fighting the blaze.

Riaan Janse van Vuuren, from the Sol Plaatje Fire Department, said members of the public came out in numbers to help.

“About 45 vehices, including bakkies and fire tenders with manpower of about 100 people were actively involved in extinguishing the fire. Approximately 100 000 litres of water was used to extinguish the blaze which spread over 60 kilometres. There was no property damage reported and no human lives or major injuries were reported.

“There was minor damage to some vehicles in the form of tyre bursts. We had two firefighting teams on standby in case the fire spread over the R64 road. People really came together as a unit to assist and to ensure that the fire was totally extinguished,” he said.

Northern Cape Department of Agriculture spokesperson, Zandisile Luphahla, urged farmers to report such incidents to the department.

“The department has not received any reports from farming organisations or individual farmers, so we cannot confirm if this was farm land that was ravaged by fire. We have always advised farmers to affiliate to Fire Protection Associations and that they must also have fire breaks on their farms.

“The department, when requested by farmers, is always willing to assist in any way possible, with fodder from the fodder bank and where arson is suspected, we always encourage such to be reported to the police. We further make a plea to all land users and farmers to continue practicing precautionary measures when dealing with veld fires during this season,” said Luphahla.

He also advised residents to take precautionary measures.

“The department is making a plea to farmers, farm dwellers and motorists to continue to act wisely when dealing with open fires and when operating machinery or smoking. They must continue practicing safety measures to help in preventing veld fires. Motorists and pedestrians are also urged not to throw away cigarette butts while driving or walking,” he said.