Farmers, public requested to be vigilant for wild fires in windy conditions
21 August 2017
More than 60 000 ha of veldt and about 4500 bales of feed was lost in wild fires in the Free State last week. Other damage suffered by farmers include the loss of 100 head of sheep and more than 50 head of cattle in two separate fires. More reports of livestock losses are expected.
A fire in the Frankfort area on Thursday, 17 August 2017, burned for 26km. The fire jumped over the N3, and it was only stopped by a fire break. Thinus Steenkamp, chairperson of the Free State Umbrella Fire Protection Association (FSUFPA), says 50 000 ha was lost in this fire alone. A second fire that occurred in the Cornelia area at the same time, burned for 14km before it could be brought under control. The damage caused by this fire is still being determined.
A farmer at Petrus Steyn lost 100 of his sheep in a fire that destroyed 11 500 ha of grazing on Wednesday, 16 August 2017. Steenkamp says on Thursday, 17 August 2017, seven fires occurred at the same time across the province, with strong winds (some up to 46km/h) that worsened conditions.
(Fire fighters in action during a fire between Brandfort and Bultfontein on Thursday, 17 August 2017)
Windy conditions expected
Free State Agriculture (FSA) would like to request all farmers and members of the public to please be vigilant in terms of wild fires. Please be extremely careful with any activities that can cause fires, especially during windy conditions.
“The Free State cannot afford another disaster with the drought at its end and given the unsure weather conditions that can occur in the 2017/18 season. We would like to request farmers to protect their grazing, we don’t know what will happen next year. Furthermore we want request drivers to please not throw cigarette buds out of vehicles, as it can cause fires in grass on the side of roads. Furthermore, we ask that the use of open fires be limited and responsible, especially on windy days. An open fire that gets out of control can cause major damage to a whole community,” according to Henk Vermeulen, chief operating officer of FSA.
Madimetja Themba, forecaster for the South African Weather Service (SAWS), expects windy conditions over the western parts of the Free State and central South Africa on Monday, 21 August 2017. These windy conditions are set to continue over the eastern parts of the Free State and central South Africa on Tuesday, 22 August 2017. The windy conditions will occur as another cold front moves across the country.