According to André Scheepers, manager of the Lowveld and Escarpment Fire Association (Lefpa), a total of 64 fires were recorded in their operation area in July – in comparison with only 11 during July last year.
No areas were spared, he said.
“We experienced a busy July with hot, dry and windy conditions for days on end,” he told the Lowvelder. “The fire danger index was also in the yellow and orange zone for most of the month. The statistics show five green days, 21 yellow ones and five days in the orange.”
These conditions kept the firefighting crews from Working on Fire, Lefpa members, landowners, communities and pilots busy for days.
“A few of the fires also extended into two days and even three, stretching resources from sunrise to sunset.
“In the cover of darkness all crews performed extremely well in containing most of these fires, and even when mopping up carried on for days,” Scheepers added.
The affected areas encompassed south of Barberton and north of Sabie as well as Machadodorp and Malalane.
“These fires were also not restricted to any specific vegetation type. As much as 4,299 hectares were reported lost in the agricultural sector, conservation areas as well as in the commercial forestry sector.”
He hoped for a “breather” in the coming week, as the weather forecast predicted more moisture in the air.
“This does not mean it’s the end of the fire season,” he warned. “Fire season only starts now.”
Lefpa urged all landowners to take extra precautions and for nobody to make unnecessary fires in the open.
“The fire prohibition is still in place. No burning operations may take place in the Ehlanzeni District without a valid permit.”
These can be obtained from Lefpa. Contact 086-066-3473.