Fires raging in the Barkly East and Lady Grey districts have resulted in damage amounting to R6.4-million and with the blaze mostly contained by this morning, the danger was not yet over.
According to a media statement from the Barkly East Fire Protection Association, runaway fires devastated the area between Sunday and yesterday.
The fire started in the Lady Grey area and spread south over the Witteberg mountain towards Barkly East. The fire danger index had been at red (the most dangerous band) for the past week as the area was dry and it was windy.
The association indicated that farmers were aware of the high risk with the dry winter season leading to veld susceptible to burning. The area is also mountainous which makes it difficult to fight fires.
The latest update indicates that about 40 000 hectares have been destroyed affecting 24 farms. Twelve farms have been completely gutted with no grazing left. Buildings have been saved.
Stock losses have been described as ‘substantial’ with figures being verified today. Several carcasses of wildlife have also been spotted.
The livelihood of about 600 people have been affected by the fires, with no loss of life. Four people however sustained slight injuries.
Support was provided by 40 farmers and 160 workers from the association and neighbouring farms, the Joe Gqabi District Municipality fire services, three ground crews from Working on Fire and the Eastern Cape Fire Protection Association with firefighters working around the clock from Sunday.
AgriEC has assisted with sponsoring Spotter Plane support and the Joe Gqabi District Municipality helped with funding helicopter support. The helicopter from Ugie Working on Fire base had also assisted in helping to ferry people up the mountains but gale force winds eventually resulted in it being grounded. Water bombing was not feasible due to a lack of water in the district.
The fire was continuing to flare up this morning although it had been contained on the west side of the R58 between Lady Grey and Barkly East and near Avoca Peak (the second highest mountain in the Eastern Cape). Constant monitoring continued.
Public donations of food and refreshments to the firefighters are ongoing. Donations of animal feed can be provided via Jannie van Zyl on 082 926 5798.
The association has thanked everyone who has been helping to fight the fires.