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Johannesburg - Fires have destroyed 500 000 hectares of grazing land in the Free State and Limpopo, Working on Fire (WoF) said on Wednesday.
Over 400 000 hectares of grazing were destroyed in the Free State since the start of the fire season at the beginning of June, said Working on Fire's general manager for the Free State Roelof Geyser.
“This will have a big impact on livestock farmers who have lost valuable grazing land.
“Farmers who don't have enough fodder for their livestock will be forced to buy in additional supplies or even sell their cattle if they can't afford to buy in food.
“Burnt veld needs at least two years to rest, so even if farmers can make do for now, the impact will linger for the next two years,” he said, describing the Free State fires as the worst in 10 years.
He warned there would also be environmental damage due to erosion from wind and heavy rains.
In Limpopo 100 000 hectares were destroyed in the Thabazimbi area.
“The fire was virtually out in Thabazimbi. Firefighters were walking around making sure the fire does not start again,” said WoF's Evelyn Holtzhausen.
In the early hours of Wednesday, the fire was not completely out.
“It was still burning in the Marakele Game Reserve, but it is below danger point.”
More than 250 firefighters and three helicopters had been at work since Friday.
Limpopo's local government and housing department was on Wednesday unable to confirm if Thabazimbi had been declared a disaster area.
Holtzhausen appealed to people not to start fires.
The WoF programme is part of the government's expanded public works programme, run through the water affairs department. It recruits and trains unemployed people to fight veld fires and currently employs over 3 000 firefighters nationally. - Sapa