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‘We had our hands full fighting the flames’


Farm owners, supported by neighbours and community members, said yesterday that they had had their hands full all night fighting the fires

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A NORTHERN Cape farmer, Charles Kross, lost most of his grazing land after his farm was one of several outside Kimberley that were ravaged by runaway fires on Monday night.

The fire was still burning on a number of farms yesterday afternoon.

Kross, the owner of Langverwacht farm, said yesterday that he had suffered losses amounting to thousands of rand following the fire which spread from a neighbouring farm.

Several farms along the Griquatown road outside Kimberley were affected by the fires, which reportedly engulfed a radius of about 20 kilometres of veld along the road.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

Farm owners, supported by neighbours and community members, said yesterday that they had had their hands full all night fighting the fires.

Kross, who farms with cattle and wildlife, said he saw that his farm was in danger after he had gone to assist on a neighbouring farm.

“We were helping to fight the fire at the De Beers farm, Rooipoort, which is situated behind our farm. The wind was against us at the time. We then realised that the fire had spread to our farm and we rushed there to open the gates so all the animals could escape. We then had our hands full fighting the flames.

“The fire at Rooipoort started at around 1pm and by about 3pm it had spread to our farm.”

Kross added that they were still assessing the full extent of their losses.

“We are left with a bit of veld but most of it has burnt. We luckily lost none of our animals or any people. Our farm is about
1 200 hectares and we will have to replace what was lost. For now we are just relieved that the fire has been extinguished,”

He said that they were up until early Tuesday morning fighting the fire.

“We were busy until 2.30am.

“We had tremendous help from farmers who came from Douglas and others from outside Kimberley. I called some people and others showed up to come and assist. Some went to help on other farms as the fire, assisted by the wind, spread to neighbouring farms.

“We tried to fight the fire but could not fight it all. At some stage there were raging flames everywhere, one did not know where to start extinguishing flames and what to leave.”

Kross said he was fortunate that they had managed in the nick of time to save his home from burning down.

“The flames were spreading towards the house but we managed to extinguish them just before they reached the house. The house and garage are still standing. The animals are also fine as they took refuge away from the blaze.”

He added that although he was certain that he had suffered thousands of rand in losses, he was hopeful that he would be able to rebuild his farm.

“One cannot put a monetary value on what was destroyed. There were trees that had been growing on the farm for many years which are now burnt to ashes. It is such a shame but we cannot sit in a corner and cry. We have to start putting our lives back together.”

Kross said they were not certain about the exact cause of the fire.

“We heard that the fire broke out at Vaalbos and spread to Rooipoort. The flames then spread to other farms. Nobody knows how or where exactly it all started. However, we all suffered great losses as a result.”

One of the people who assisted in fighting the fire on Kross’ farm, John Ekkenbeig, described yesterday how they managed to stop the fire literally metres before it reached the farmhouse.

“We saw the fire going towards the house but we managed to extinguish it by the time it reached the garden. Luckily it died out before it engulfed the house,” Ekkenbeig said.

He added that volunteers had rotated and had gone to help at other farms as fire the spread.

“There were crews of people in bakkies who rushed to neighbouring farms to assist in fighting the fires. We were all busy until the early hours of the morning. We heard in the morning that the fire had spread to Pniel and some people went to assist there as well.”

According to reports received, Rooipoort farm, which belongs to De Beers, and Pniel were still burning yesterday afternoon.

Piet Oosthuizen from De Beers said that they were unable to give a report on the situation as they were busy fighting the fires.