19 Sep 2013
Mpumalanga residents have been warned of the possibility of more wildfires as strong winds and high temperatures are expected to blast the province.
The spokesperson for the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Simphiwe Kunene, has urged people to be vigilant of accidentally starting fires.
“The South African Weather Service has forecast a high fire index. These conditions are expected in the entire province from Wednesday, 18 September to Saturday, 21 September,” said Kunene.
Kunene asked people to ensure they properly extinguish any cooking or heating fires before leaving them unattended.
Parents are also advised to ensure that children do not start fires.
Motorists are warned to drive slowly in areas where there is smoke.
“All fires must be controlled and all motorists are warned to slow down when driving in areas where there is smoke. Residents must also report any fires as quickly as possible to their closest fire brigades,” Kunene said.
He said the department has also instructed all municipalities to be on full alert and standby for any possible fires.
So far, more than 60 fires have been recorded in Mpumalanga, according to Working on Fire (WoF).
Wildfires have been disastrous in the past. In 2007, wildfires that blazed between July 26 and the first week of September killed 13 people, including six fire fighters. In this period, 40 200 hectares of plantations and 16 000 hectares of grazing fields were destroyed.
In 2008, 67 fires were reported between April and October, during which time four people, including a fire fighter, were killed, while 325 were injured.
The fires also devastated 33 000 hectares of vegetation, including trees in commercial forestry plantations.
Forestry South Africa, the country's premier and largest forestry organisation representing growers of timber, reported that Mpumalanga's forestry sector was hardest hit by the 2008 fires, suffering losses estimated at R3.5 billion.
Between June and August 2010, only 115 fires were reported in the province, compared to 153 in the same period in 2009. - Sydney Masinga, SAnews.gov.za
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