Major roads closed as veld fires scorch parts of Northern Cape and Free State.. At least two people, a firefighter and a civilian, were hospitalised due to smoke inhalation and burn wounds as fires burnt along the N12 and R375 near Kimberley.
At least one of the veld fires, which started in Ritchie, a small town 40km south of Kimberley in the Northern Cape, crossed into the Free State. By 10pm on Monday the fire was burning over a wide front in the Free State between Jacobsdal and Kimberley. The status of another fire that started near Mosu Lodge, 70km southwest of Kimberley, was unclear on Monday night.
The Free State umbrella fire protection association said agricultural and tourism infrastructure had been destroyed or severely damaged. Spokesperson Savage Breytenbach said large-scale stock and game losses had also occurred due to the fire and “will increase, severely impacting local economies” .
“Suppression is ongoing, but the fire has spread over a large area, as was predicted with wind changes, and has crossed into the Free State province between Jacobsdal and Kimberley … The fire is actively spreading in an easterly direction over a front of about 30km. The left flank of the Richie fire crossed the N8 and was burning about 10km from the Northern Cape/Free State border at 8.30pm. Fire suppression efforts are uncoordinated making an accurate assessment of the status of suppression operations extremely difficult,” he said.
On Monday evening private life support and ambulance service Emer-G-Med spokesperson Kyle van Reenen said the N12 was closed due to grass fires in the Kimberley area. “A number of patients have been transported to local hospitals for smoke inhalation and burns during the course of the day,” he said.
Breytenbach said: “Local landowners have been attempting suppression of both fires from inception and are completely overrun and unable to bring the fire under control or to contain the spread under the present conditions. Local structures are unable to effectively co-ordinate and manage the incident due to the size and scope of the incidents,” he said.
An extreme fire danger warning will be in place until Thursday. He said changes in wind direction from northerly to westerly on Monday afternoon had caused the spread of both fires over extended fronts from about 3pm.
Breytenbach said the association’s incident management team had developed an operational plan and teams were on standby awaiting the allocation of an operational budget.
He said no expansion of the Mosu Lodge fire had been recorded since Monday afternoon.
“The active fires will not be able to be brought under control with the current resources under the prevailing and predicted conditions. It is highly recommended that additional resources be made available through disaster management structures to assist with the containment of the active wildfires,” Breytenbach said.