The department of agriculture and rural development has urged all farming communities in the Free State to be vigilant during the upcoming veld fire season after 3 417 hectares of land was burnt down in June and July this year.
The department revealed that 1 749 hectares of land burnt down in the Thabo Mofutsanyana district, followed by Xhariep District with 1 100 hectares and Fezile Dabi with 558 hectares. Lejweleputswa was the least affected with only 10 hectares of land having been affected by veld fires. Over 244 000 hectares land in the province was razed by veld fires last year.
The MEC for agriculture and rural development, Mamiki Qabathe said the veld fires pose serious threats and risks to the agricultural sector and ultimately food security. She made a clarion call to all farmers and farming communities to install proper fire breaks, burn down declining vegetation according to the prescribed methods and make sure that their firefighting equipment is in good working order.
Qabathe said that the first fire caused by lightning in the province has already occurred earlier this year in March where 8 000 hectares of land was burnt down at Boshoff and another 550 hectares in Trompsburg.
She said in April there were no veld fires but in May about 92 hectares of land was destroyed by fire in Bethlehem. So far, there are no mortalities reported. The department has also advised farming communities to form fire control committees at a neighbourhood level and move livestock out of grazing land to plough the fields for safety.
Departmental spokeswoman Modiehi Tlhobelo, said installed firebreaks must be wide enough and long enough to have a reasonable chance of preventing a veld fire from spreading to or from neighbouring land.
“The owner of the land who is obliged to prepare and maintain a firebreak must ensure that, with due regard to the weather, climate, terrain and vegetation of the area, the following is taken care of in terms of installing the firebreaks (Chapter 4 of National Veld and Forest Fire Act No. 101 of 1998) prescribes.”
“A firebreak does not cause soil erosion and it is reasonably free of inflammable material capable of carrying a veld fire across it. Farming communities should establish fire protection associations to prevent and control veld fires as required by the National Veld and Forest Fire Act,” added Tlhobelo.
The Fire Brigade Services Act provides for the establishment, co-ordination and standardisations of fire brigade services. Tlhobelo said local authorities are empowered to establish and maintain a fire brigade service in their communities.