More than 1 800 livestock dead after Free State wildfires

Losses of livestock and infrastructure are expected to run into millions of rand following the devastating wildfires that raged across large parts

Written By Kishugu

On 24/10/2020
Losses of livestock and infrastructure are expected to run into millions of rand following the devastating wildfires that raged across large parts of the Free State during the past week.

This was according to Jack Armour, operations manager for agricultural development, transformation, natural resource and commercial activities at Free State Agriculture.

He said early estimations indicated that more than 1 800 head of livestock had perished in the fires. Estimated losses of infrastructure are not yet known.

Farmer’s Weekly previously reported that raging wildfires had destroyed over 100 000ha in the western Free State since Sunday, 18 October, which were reportedly started when service delivery protesters burned tyres on the R708 road between Hertzogville and Christiana.

Armour confirmed that by Friday, 23 October the fires had been brought under control.

“The actual damage will only be able to be determined after five days when all [the satellite] data will be available.

“It is currently estimated that more than 100 commercial farmers have been affected, [while the number of smallholder] farmers are unknown at the moment.”

Also speaking to Farmer’s Weekly, Wayne Mokhethi, spokesperson for Working on Fire (WOF) in the Free State, said the fire had been contained by the evening of Thursday, 22 October, but thunderstorm activity and extremely strong wind in the area had re-ignited it, and the fire then spread rapidly.

“Four WOF teams were dispatched and they conducted back-burns in an attempt to contain [the situation].”

He added that more thunderstorm activity resulted in the direction of the fire changing, and a WOF spotter plane was dispatched early on Friday, 23 October to help teams on the ground contain the spread.

“Weather forecasts for today [Friday] indicate more thunderstorm activity, [which creates] the possibility of more flare-ups.”

Mokhethi said this had been one of the worst wildfires the region had experienced in many years, as a vast amount of fuel-load had been building up, which had resulted in the intense and fast-spreading wildfire.

He also confirmed that wildfires were currently raging in North West, but said a similar outbreak in the Singisi area in the Eastern Cape had been contained.

Original article available here

FS MEC calls for ‘joint forces’ over veldfires

Farming communities in the Free State have severely been affected by veld fires that erupted in the province which left them in dire a situation.

Addressing Members of the Provincial Legislature on Friday, Bulwane has stressed the need for the province to join hands in lending assistance to farmers whose land, properties, and livestock were destroyed when runaway fires broke out at the beginning of the week in the Herzogville and Hoopstad areas.

Working on Fire has confirmed that the veld fires, which extend to the Northern Cape. damaged about 100 000 hectares in the Free State.

Bulwane says the fires left many farmers in a desperate situation, which also threatens food security in the province. He says one farmer has badly been injured and is fighting for his life in ICU in Bloemfontein.

He confirms that the extend of the damage is yet to be determined.

“Let us not politicise matters that do not need politics in it and join hands to help those farmers. We must work together. The damage is so huge, we can’t quantify it now. We do not know how many hectors have been burned [and] how many livestock have been affected. We need to joint hands”, said Bulwane.

It is reported that another farmer in Hertzogville lost approximately R900 000 in livestock and incurred about R3 million in damage to property on his farm.

OFM News has reported that it’s alleged the fire broke out during protests by local residents of the township over water issues. It has further been alleged the fire started on the R708 and the flames spread quickly in the veld, which led to multiple fires that then raged in the direction of Dealesville, Bultfontein, and Hoopstad.

Working on Fire’s spokesperson, Wayne Mokhethi, on Tuesday told OFM News the recent heatwave and strong winds coupled with the Fire Danger Index being red, have fuelled the situation.

Original article available here

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