Thousands of hectares destroyed in Free State fire

According to Free State Agriculture (FSA), farmers in the Petrus Steyn District are still evaluating the cost of wildfires that killed livestock, destroyed more than 60 000ha of grazing land, and 4 500 bales of feed across the Free State in a space of a week.

One person died because of the fire.

Sakkie Bosman, Safety Coordinator for Free State Agriculture in the area, told Farmer’s Weekly that the entire community had rallied together to fight the blaze that started on 17 August.

One farmer in the district, whom Bosman declined to name, lost 100 sheep out of a flock of 126 in the fire.

Elsewhere in the province, up to 50 head of cattle died from the blaze.

South Africa Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson, Captain Zweli Mohebeleli was unable to confirm whether a woman from Petrus Steyn who died at Dihlabeng Hospital in Bethlehem was a victim of the fire as assumed, but said an inquest docket had been opened.

According to the FSA statement, a fire in the Frankfort area on the same day burnt a 26km swathe along the N3.

About 50 000ha were destroyed in the district, Thinus Steenkamp, chairperson of the Free State Umbrella Fire Protection Association (FSUFPA) said in the statement.

“A second fire that occurred in the Cornelia area at the same time, burnt [along a] 14km [stretch] before it could be brought under control. The damage caused by this fire is still being determined,” the statement said.

According to Steenkamp, seven fires blazed across the province at the same time. The fires were fuelled by strong winds of up to 46km/h.

Fire Provincial spokesperson, Wayne Mokhethi said 10 teams of 240 firefighters from the organisation were dispatched and battled with the fires which they managed to put out completely.

“We have had numbers of veld fires that broke out due to the weather in various parts of the province. However, 240 firefighters were dispatched to the affected areas and managed to keep the fire under control,” he said.

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