Home News Farmers survey aftermath of veld fires

Farmers survey aftermath of veld fires

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The president of Agri Noordkaap said that approximately 100,000 hectares of land was destroyed by the fire.

The aftermath of the fire that ravaged several farms on the N8, about 20km from Kimberley, on Monday night. Picture: Soraya Crowie

ALL THE veld fires in the areas surrounding Kimberley, as well as along the N12 to Ritchie and the N8 to Bloemfontein, were reportedly extinguished by Tuesday morning.

The “out of control” veld fires had caused panic among farmers and city residents on Monday evening.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality on Tuesday confirmed that the massive fire outbreak emanated from Hopetown and spread to the southern and western areas of Kimberley. The strong winds had also spread it towards the Boshof and Griekwastad areas.

It is believed that the fire destroyed approximately 100,000 hectares of land.

Large areas of farmland along the N12 were destroyed by the fire. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Many farmers were left distraught after having to watch helplessly as their livestock and property were destroyed in the uncontrollable blaze.

Fear also gripped a number of city residents as the fire approached residential areas.

The fire began spreading through farms in the Ritchie area towards Kimberley at around 5pm on Monday.

Farmers and volunteers exhausted most of their resources as they battled to try and bring the blaze, which was being driven on by a strong wind, under control.

Temporary road closures were implemented on the N12 and traffic was redirected on Monday afternoon by law enforcement agencies as a precaution, with motorists also advised to avoid the N12 between Kimberley and Hopetwon and later the N8 between Kimberley and Bloemfontein.

Only two fire trucks were apparently seen on the N12 before the fire spread across the road towards Magersfontein and the N8.

No municipal fire truck apparently attended the fire on the N8. Instead, farmers and volunteers used their own smaller water tankers to extinguish the fire and bring it under control.

A 26-year-old man was admitted to Mediclinic Gariep with second-degree burn wounds on his face and torso on Monday night, but no other major injuries were reported.

The spokesperson for Mediclinic Kimberley/Gariep, Denise Coetzee, confirmed on Tuesday that the patient is in a stable condition in the ICU.

It is believed that the man suffered the injuries while on the back of a bakkie helping to fight the blaze on a farm.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie said on Tuesday that the local authority’s emergency services have been deployed, together with those of other stakeholders, while there was also “constant monitoring” of the situation to prevent a resurgence of the veld fires.

“It should also be noted that some of the farmers have cut fences so that their animals could escape the dangerous fire, which may result in a number of stray animals. We urge motorists to drive with caution and to be vigilant,” added Matsie.

Two trains were spotted stationed on the tracks next to the N12 after the fire spread last night. The trains were still there on Tuesday and it is unclear whether rail operations were affected by the fire as Transnet has not commented on the matter.

The president of Agri Noordkaap, Nicol Jansen, said approximately 100,000 hectares of land was destroyed by the fire.

He said the exact amount of damage to land, livestock and property is still being determined.

Jansen noted that farmers discovered a lot of carcasses during clean-up operations.

A plane was seen circling above the affected area to “measure” the extent of the damage on Tuesday morning.

Jansen explained that it had been difficult to bring the fire under control as it did not move in a straight line and kept changing direction because of the wind.

According to Jansen, while this was not the worst veld fire the Province had experienced, it was still “disastrous”.

He said that veld fires had destroyed about 400,000 hectares of land two months ago.

Jansen expressed disappointment in the way that the provincial and local governments handled the matter and the farmers’ pleas for help.

He noted that the response was “slow” and that government lacks the relevant funds and resources to deal with large veld fires.

“The response was not timeous and the work by the fire teams was very poor,” said Jansen.

“The agricultural sector will do everything in its power to prevent this disaster from resulting in job losses,” assured Jansen.

Boontjieskraal Lodge, situated next to the N12, was among the many farms that were badly affected by the fire.

The owner of the lodge, Kenalemang Steenkamp, said they started clean-up operations on Tuesday.

Steenkamp said the water pipes were all destroyed. “We had building material on the premises, which was also destroyed in the fire. All our springbok died in the fire, one of our horses was injured, while the remaining horses remain stressed.”

Members of the Kimberley Action Group (KCA) had on Monday called on the premier and relevant government departments to intervene in the matter as farmers and community members were battling the blaze.

“This fire has been ravaging farms since yesterday (Sunday). There is not a single fire brigade on site. Farmers and community members are battling the blaze on their own. Dr Zamani Saul okae (where are you) to provide leadership? Where are the fire engines and helicopters?” the KCA’s Boyce Makodi had asked.

The FF Plus called for a thorough investigation of the veld fires in co-operation with organised agricultural, as well as other organisations aimed at assisting landowners with safety matters.

FF Plus MP and provincial leader Dr Wynand Boshoff noted that the veld fires had “made the headlines time and again” over the last couple of days because the fires had surrounded the provincial capital. “In the weeks prior to that, equally serious fires raged in other less densely populated parts of the Province.”

Many animals were injured or killed during the fires on Monday night. Picture: Facebook

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