Thirteen fires are still raging across Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape on Tuesday, Working on Fire (WoF) said.
There are currently five fires in Mpumalanga, one in Limpopo, six in KwaZulu-Natal and one in the Eastern Cape. WoF’s national co-ordinator Michelle Kleinhans said hot and dry conditions were expected in Mpumalanga and Limpopo on Wednesday, with a high risk of fires.
“Weather conditions in KZN are expected to cool by Wednesday, bringing respite to weary veldfire fighting teams.”
The worst blazes had been in plantations and nature conservation areas in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal, which were at the heart of the country’s forestry industry, she said.
WoF project manager Fred Mokgope said firefighting teams from the Western Cape had been moved to help fight the blazes.
“No industry can continuously be hit hard by ongoing fire, it takes its toll eventually. South Africans must be responsible with fire when moving through forestry areas,” he said.
In Limpopo, several fires were raging in the heatwave-stricken Magoebaskloof area.
Pilot Grant Morrison spent four hours dropping water on timber plantations near Haenertsburg before heading for another fire in the Dap Naude area.
In KwaZulu-Natal, firefighters in Pietermaritzburg fought 165 fires in the first nine days of September alone. The city’s fire operations manager Essack Khan said August had also been a busy month with 220 veld fires claiming five lives. Many of the farms in Pietermaritzburg’s outlying rural areas did not have fire breaks. He said hot weather and dry winds had helped spread fires.
As temperatures soared to 36 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, Khan said a huge forest fire near Hilton had been contained by midday on Tuesday.
The blaze started on Monday afternoon and three crews from the Pietermaritzburg and Howick fire departments worked through the night to put it out.
“Our staff alternated shifts… Although the fire season is over, there may be more fires during the week.
However, we are expecting some rain tomorrow [Wednesday],” said Khan
Meanwhile, local government spokesman Lennox Mabaso said the provincial cabinet would meet on Wednesday for a detailed assessment of the fires which ravaged the uThungulu district two weeks ago.
The KwaZulu-Natal health department reported last week that 34 people had died in fires.
Operations manager for the KwaZulu-Natal Fire Protection Association Simon Thomas said all controlled burning of agricultural land in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo had been banned.
Free State agriculture MEC Mamiki Qhabathe gave farmers affected by recent veld fires bales of fodder over the weekend. Seven of South Africa’s nine provinces had been hit recently by over 100 fires, fanned by strong winds.
Over 30 lives had been lost in KwaZulu-Natal alone. While there had been fewer human fatalities in other provinces, thousands of animals died and tens of thousands of hectares of land were destroyed.