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Farmers count the cost of veld fires

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Following several raging veld fires in the Northern Cape and Free State, the focus now is on how farmers will take care of their livestock and other animals that have survived the blaze.

Battling the blaze. Picture: Soraya Crowie

FOLLOWING several raging veld fires in the Northern Cape and Free State, the focus now is on how farmers will take care of their livestock and other animals that have survived the blaze.

Local farmer, Andre Markgraaf, said that seven of his farms were completely destroyed.

Markgraaf said damage to his farms, which are situated about 15 kilometres into the Free State, amounts to millions of rands.

“Seven farms were totally destroyed in the blaze. The fire started on Thursday. We were busy fighting it and it appeared as if we were winning, however, the wind direction changed and things got worse. The fire came from the N12 and rapidly spread when the wind direction changed. About 100 000 hectares were destroyed. Everythings is destroyed . . . everything.

“The estimated cost thus far is R2 million of grazing that has lost. We have lost our cattle as well as game. We mostly have small game but they also died in the blaze,” Markgraaff said.

He said farm infrastructure has also been destroyed.

“The fence line was destroyed because herds of cattle were trying to get through the fence. There were many animals that burnt to death. We drove around on the farms and we saw many tortoises that were burnt. It is absolutely devastating and most probably the most horrific incident that I have to live through,” he sighed.

Markgraaff said they had help from the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

“We have called in the SPCA to come and assist with the animals. We also had a veterinarian who helped with the removal of the carcasses. At this stage we are still searching for other animals that might have survived or are injured,” he added.

He said fellow farmers also assisted in donating fodder for the animals who had survived.

“We received lucerne from farmers from all over. We are also busy offloading lucerne as many farmers have opened their hearts and donated much needed food to the animals that had survived, seeing we have got no grazing left. The generosity of the people is totally unbelievable,” he said.

Several farms on the N12 were affected, including Dronfield Nature Reserve and farms on the Samaria Road.

The manager of Dronfield, Charles Hall, said they battled the fires for several hours.

“The fire started at the reserve at about 4pm on Thursday. We were busy fighting it until the early hours of Friday morning. We managed to extinguish it and the fire has down, but we are working in shifts to monitor the situation,” he said.

He said fortunately no animals were lost and there was no damage to property.

He said people came through to assist them in their plight.

“We had people from Kimberley, Barkly West, Boshof and other farms who came to fight the fire. It was a long and stressful night, but we managed to pull through it,” Hall said.

Two employees from the SPCA, Charmaine Engelbreght and Duan Matthee, said they had to assist in putting down some animals who were caught in the flames.

Farmers, Working On Fire members as well as other community members on Friday morning rushed to Chanbe Lodge to assist to extinguish a fire at the lodge.

Management of Chanbe Lodge indicated that they will, at a later stage, know the extent of the damage.