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Winds hamper N Cape firefight

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“No loss of human beings or livestock have been reported so far,”

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THE RECENT dry, hot weather conditions are believed to have sparked the fires that ravaged several farms outside Kimberley on Monday night.

About 7 000 hectares of grazing land on Pniel, Rooipoort, Goodhope and Secretaris farms outside Barkly West were also destroyed following the veld fires that erupted on Monday.

The provincial spokesperson of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Phemelo Manankong, said that the department’s disaster team was assisting in trying to extinguish the fires which spread from one area to another yesterday.

“The fires started late on Monday night and continued today (yesterday) and the provincial disaster team is still busy trying to extinguish it. The strong winds are, however, making it difficult for the team to win the battle,” said Manankong.

“These sporadic fires in the main are caused by the aridness of grass and shrubs during this time of the year as well as prevailing winds. The dryness of the vegetation coupled with the effect of winds create perfect conditions for runaway veld fires in the Province.”

Manankong said that no loss of life had been reported. “No loss of human beings or livestock have been reported so far,”

He added, however, that thousands of hectares of land had been destroyed by veld fires this year.

“Since the beginning of this year to date, about 99 000 hectares of grazing land has been reported to have been ravished by veld fires across the Province. Earlier veld fires caused damages to farms like Wonderwerk, situated 40 kilometres outside Kuruman towards Danielskuil, Majeng in the Magareng Local Municipality and farms in the Boshof district bordering the Northern Cape and Free State.

“In Majeng, preliminary assessment has revealed that about 26 camps have been affected, as well as 37 smallholder farmers and 926 large stock as well as 200 small stock.”

He urged all parties trying to fight the current veld fires to exercise caution.

“The Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is reiterating its call to all land users and farmers to continue practising precautionary measures when dealing with veld fires. The priority must be to reduce the risk of veld fires as well as the preparedness to combat fires that might occur during these dry seasons,” Manankong added.

“Annually, veld fires result in disastrous damage to natural grazing land, animals and properties while in some instance it leads to loss of human life. The department is making a plea to farmers, farm dwellers and motorists to continue acting wisely when dealing with open fires and when operating machinery or smoking. The priority must be to continue practising precautionary measures to help in preventing veld fires. Motorist and pedestrians are also urged not to throw away cigarette butts while driving or walking.”

Manankong advised farmers to contact their nearest municipality to report veld fires.

The assistant chief of the Kimberley Fire Brigade, Riaan Janse van Vuuren, said yesterday that firefighters had been dispatched to the affected areas.

“We dispatched a truck to assist with the fighting of the fires. We fought the fire along the N8 as we could not drive onto the farms with the fire truck. The team, however, had to return to Kimberley as there was a fire in the town where they had to assist,” said Janse van Vuuren.

Graspan park, a wildlife breeding camp at Mokala National Park, also lost about 3 500 hectares of grazing land following the fires.

The park manager of Mokala, Johan de Klerk, said about 80% of grazing land in the park was destroyed while some small wild animals were also burnt to death.

“We lost some of the small wildlife. There also seems to be some buffalo that incurred burn wounds. We have called in the vet to assess them and to clean the wounds. We managed, however, to save the majority of the wildlife,” said De Klerk.

He added that the fire spread from Rooipoort to Graspan within a few minutes.

“We were assisting at Rooipoort at around 1pm on Monday. About half-an-hour later we heard that the fire was at Graspan. We dispatched three vehicles with firefighting equipment and another two to search for the animals. We were busy fighting the fire until the early hours of Tuesday. People from Kimberley also came to assist. There were many hands that came forward to help and we are very grateful for that.”

De Klerk said they would now focus on trying to assist in the recuperation of the animals.

“Graspan is a breeding camp and was a not a visitors camp. We do have some feed to give the animals in the meanwhile. The fires have now been totally extinguished and our efforts will now be on rebuilding the camp and trying to heal the animals.”