Be prepared for veld fires this season: June 2012

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MARICELLE BOTHA

Annually, veld fires have disastrous consequences including the loss of grazing land, animals and, in some instances, human life.
 
The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is calling on farmers, farm dwellers and motorists to act responsibly when dealing with open fires and when operating machinery or smoking. Farmers and land users should be alert and prepared for the coming veld fire season by reducing the risk of veld fires as well as increasing their readiness to combat blazes should they occur.

In the 2011/12 financial year, about 422 133 hectares of grazing land in the Northern Cape was destroyed by fire. Last year, in the Pixley ka Seme district municipality, which was the hardest hit in the province in terms of veld fires, one person dead, three were injured and a number of livestock also succumbed the flames.

Meanwhile, Agri North West chairperson, Cor Jansen van Vuuren, has also urged all farmers and land owners to act proactively. "Make sure that fire breaks are made correctly, preferably on the northern or north-western side of the land. Make sure that fire extinguishers are filled with water and are ready to be used." He added that one of the main causes of veld fires are power lines that are faulty or hanging loose and that people should these immediately when the see it.  The aridness of grass and shrubs during this time of year as well as the prevailing winds often see sporadic blazes flaming up. The dryness of vegetation coupled with the effect of the winds create perfect conditions for runaway veld fires.

Take note of the following risk reduction measure:
  • Ensure fire-fighting equipment are easily accessible and in good working condition
  • Be aware of and participate in the local Fire Protection Association (FPA) activities and plans
  • Control and restrict open fires e.g. creation of veld fire belts
  • Open fires must never be left unattended, especially on or near dry vegetation
  • Monitor hotspots for possible veld fire outbreaks and report them immediately to your local FPA, municipalities, the Extension Office or South African Police Service and have the relevant contact numbers on hand.