Arson suspected in string of veld fires

VELD FIRE: Another veld fire in the Bonkolo Basin area that raged on Monday, leaving Aloe Grove Farm’s livestock without grazing        Picture: SUPPLIED

Grazing and lucerne fields destroyed as community fight blaze over several days, saving homes

Fortunately Aloe Grove Farm in the Bonkolo Basin area, along with farm workers’ houses, were spared by a raging days-long veld fire, but the same cannot be said for the grazing land.

Aloe Grove owner Michelle Thompson, who is a cattle and lucerne farmer, said they had battled four fires in four weeks, which she alleges had all been started on purpose.

Thompson, who has had to transfer all her stock to someone else’s farm as there was no grazing left, said one of her lucerne fields had half its produce destroyed.

”The fire started at 1pm on Saturday and we got it out at about 7pm. It started up again at 1am on Monday.

”The wind was strong and we only got it out at 5.30am.

”The fire burnt a large area and we almost lost all our tractors. The first fire started on Saturday and we got that one out. The second was started on Sunday morning, which burnt through to Monday morning,” she said.

The fire brigade from Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality was on standby in case one of the houses caught alight, she said, but there was no fire engine from Chris Hani to help.

”The fire brigade from Enoch Mgijima was here, but it was not around to help with the veld fires.

”Apparently they cannot refill from the dam the way other tankers do.

”There was no truck here from Chris Hani.”

Had it not been for the community’s assistance, Thompson said much more damage would have occurred.

”All the helpers who were here were farmers, volunteers from town and the rangers’ emergency services were all here. There must have been close to 30 people.

”All the farmers are equipped with blowers, which are machines with engines that you wear on your back.

”They blow out air to put the fire out. We had about 14 beaters and water tankers which the farmers brought with their tractors.”

She said there were plans to open a case with the police.

”We have also decided to have a meeting with the chief at Zingquthu to ask them to help us to investigate who is doing this.

We do not know who is doing it, because the fires start on top of the mountain.”
Farmer Simon Sutton said both fires were lit very close to the Zingquthu and Bonkolo Basin boundary fence on the Thompson’s farms.

CHDM spokesperson Bulelwa Ganyaza said the incident was not reported at their Customer Call Centre.

”CHDM has decentralising the fire services function to all its local municipalities.

”Personnel and resources have been deployed accordingly. This will assist our response time to fire incidents. Within the short time of this windy season, we have responded to more than 32 fire incidents, most from far flung areas, impacting on response time.”

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