Weekend fires under control - WOF

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Countrywide fires at the weekend, in which a Limpopo farmer died, were largely under control by Monday morning, Working on Fire (WOF) said.

The fires destroyed thousands of hectares of grazing land, Free State WOF spokesman Saayman Rossouw said.

In the north-eastern Free State, 50 000ha were consumed, while around 20 000ha of land burnt near Dewetsdorp. In the vicinity of Kroonstad, around 5000ha of grassland was destroyed.

Rossouw said all these fires had been put out by Monday morning.

WOF KwaZulu-Natal spokeswoman Tracey Carter said the province had “a very hectic weekend” with wind fanning fires in the northern parts.

Agricultural land, plantations and residential areas were affected.

“Historically speaking, August is probably the worst month, with high winds and dry conditions,” Carter said.

By Monday, most of these fires were under control, but a number of localised fires remained.

In the North West, three WOF teams attended to 23 fires over the weekend, spokeswoman Louise Kruger said.

Two private firefighters were seriously injured when the wind changed, driving the flames towards them.

Kruger said a helicopter dumped 97 loads of water to dampen the worst blazes. By 6pm on Sunday the fires had been contained.

Mpumalanga spokeswoman Jackie van Wyk said WOF fought 24 fires throughout the province on Sunday. There were no reports of injuries to either people or livestock.

“We are expecting one or two days of rest, but for the rest of the week the fire danger index is yellow, but winds could drive it up to orange alert,” Van Wyk said.

She said WOF teams were being kept on alert and had been trained to deal with the intense pressure of fire season.

Limpopo spokesman Alwyn Kruger said WOF attended to 26 fires in the province on Saturday and Sunday, of which 11 were plantation fires and 15 were grassland and bush.

“We experienced major fires, especially around Tzaneen, since Tuesday.”

The Beeld reported on Monday that farmer Thinus Brandt was burnt to death in Tzaneen while battling a blaze on his family's farm on Saturday.

Last week there were 53 fires reported in the area, said Kruger.

Weather conditions over the weekend were conducive to the spread of fires, with an average wind speed of 31km/h. At times, winds reached 64km/h around Tzaneen.

On Monday morning, only three fires remained, but Kruger said these would probably be contained soon.

However, there was concern that pre-frontal conditions expected in Limpopo on Wednesday and Thursday would drive the fire danger index up to “orange alert”.

“We would like to ask people to take care with open fires during the fire season, as people often don't realise the dangers,” Kruger said. - Sapa


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