Northern KZN
The fires season heats up Vryheid
09:27 (GMT+2), Thu , 10 July 2014
Northern KZN
Gutted by fire in the Leeunek area south-east of Vryheid in the middle of June, and the fire season has hardly begun.
It is only the beginning of July and already fires in the area have taken lives and destroyed thousands of hectares of plantations and pastures in the Vryheid area. And on Sunday, June 16, these fires were fanned by winds that reached speeds of up to 120km/h.
There were fires in the Mondlo, Utrecht/Bivanespoort, Kambula, Louwsburg, Tygerskloof, Lenjane and Gluckstadt/Leeunek areas on that weekend.
In Vryheid on that Sunday the wind was measured at a maximum of 88km/h, but elsewhere it was blowing faster.
The fires, it is thought, were the result of arson and in one case as a result of honey collectors smoking bees from their hive.
Two people are known to have died, and the local Fire Prevention Association (FPA) was still assessing the full damages inflicted to property and the full extent of the destroyed plantations and pastures. It will exceed 4,000 hectares.
The Working On Fire ground crew were employed in the Gluckstadt area to help fight the runaway fire on Sunday. The cause of that fire has been variously reported as being honey gatherers and the deliberate fire setting of a vlei in the area.
And the fire season has hardly begun. Fire Protection Officer of the Vryheid/AbaQulusi FPA, Steven Hibbert, on Tuesday implored landowners to make sure that absolutely everything was “dead” after burning fire breaks. He said that days later, in some cases even weeks later, a seemingly harmless smoldering fire could be fanned to new life.
“There is so much fuel out there and it is so dry, and it’s only June,” he remarked. “Don’t leave your farms to go hunting or fishing, and if you have to leave your farm for some reason, leave someone in control, someone with the authority to make decisions.”
He said that farmers and landowners could not expect their neighbours to protect their property, because at the time of fires they would already be busy protecting their own properties. “And, be vigilant,” he added.
For questions about the Vryheid/AbaQulusi FPA, to report fires seen in the district, to get up-dated weather forecasts, Steven Hibbert can be contacted at 083 769 0467, or contact Johan le Roux, night or day, at 034 982 1882.

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