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Thousands of hectares of timber, veld burnt in Tsitsikamma wildfires

23 June 2021 - 21:03 By shonisani tshikalange
Efforts are in full swing to suppress the wildfires in the Tsitsikamma.
Efforts are in full swing to suppress the wildfires in the Tsitsikamma.
Image: Thinus Kok

The department of forestry, fisheries and the environment said on Wednesday that efforts to suppress raging wildfires in the Coldstream and Koomansbos areas of Tsitsikamma were in full swing.

So far, more than 2,400ha of commercial plantations and natural veld have been destroyed.

The department said more than 150 firefighters from the department together with teams from governmental and non-governmental organisations have been battling the fires that reportedly started earlier this week.

Minister Barbara Creecy has expressed gratitude to the firefighters and different stakeholders participating in the battle.

“A big thank you to all firefighters and local communities for the continued support. A special word of appreciation to businesses, particularly those retailers in Humansdorp which donated food parcels to the heroes and heroines battling the fire,” she said.

The department said two Working on Fire Huey helicopters and one fixed-wing spotter plane have flown 31 hours, providing aerial firefighting services in support of ground crews at these fires.

Creecy emphasised the importance of co-operation and teamwork among all stakeholders participating in the firefighting efforts which are co-ordinated under the Eastern Cape Umbrella Fire Protection Association and Southern Cape Fire Protection.

“The Eastern Cape has two fire seasons — a winter fire season which affects the eastern part of the province from June to October, and a summer fire season which affects the western part of the province from December to April,” said the department's spokesperson, Albi Modise.

Modise said in preparation for the winter fire season, close to 400 firefighters in the Eastern region underwent their annual yellow card training camps which ensured that they are fully fit and ready for the fire season.

Creecy urged communities and landowners to be extra vigilant during these cold winter months and not to start any unnecessary fires which could lead to a disaster runaway fire.

“Ensure that your properties do not have any waste material with a high fuel load and make sure that you do not have overhanging trees close to your properties,” Creecy said.

Modise said property owners are also encouraged to clean their gutters and to have the telephone numbers of their local fire services at hand.