The forestry ministry has enforced precautionary measures during the high season of veld fires, including the prohibition charcoal burners scattered on a farm.
As per chapter 6 of the Forest Act 12 of 2001 as amended by the Forest Amendment Act 13 of 2005, the Directorate of Forestry is mandated to prevent uncontrolled fires in the country.
Director for forestry Joseph Hailwa said an above average rainfall was received countrywide during the previous rain season (2019-2020), resulting in increased fuel loads (grass and herbaceous biomass) relative to the rainy season.
“These conditions will exacerbate fire behaviour (intensity, flammability and rate of spread) especially during the upcoming dry, hot season, commonly known as late fire season. Always, there is danger of veld fires on farms where charcoal is produced,” he noted.
The ministry suggested there should be, with an immediate effect, clustered burners systems applied on each farm to reduce veld fire outbreak. The system should apply from the beginning of August to the end of December annually.
According to Hailwa, causes of veld fires include charcoal burning and motorists; thus, charcoal production should be done under strict measures.
These measures include that one should cluster all kilns at a designated facility or central burning places per camp of charcoal production on a farm.
The ministry also directed that charcoal producing farms should be surrounded by 15 metres of firebreaks at the border right after the end of the rainy season.
Moreover, an area of at least five metres radius must be cleared of grass around an active cluster of burners (central burning place).
There should also be provision for regular training for charcoal burners on fire prevention and control (suppression), especially during the dry season.
Hailwa said open fires are only permitted in a cluster of burners (central burning places) at the site camp.
The campfire must be extinguished when workers go to bed or leave the camp.
Further, he maintained no combustible materials such as cigarette butts, matches or any other burning object may be thrown into the veld.
“Where kilns are lit, there must be constant supervision by a delegated person. Fire-fighting equipment, including beaters, drip torches and knapsack (backpack) sprayers must be accessible at central burning places in the dry season,” Hailwa indicated.
Charcoal producers are urged to deploy beaters or knapsack sprayers immediately when a fire starts.
Moreover, it is directed that a fire vehicle must be available on each farm with a water supply and pump (high pressure pump) to deal with uncontrolled fires. If a fire starts, the farm owner or manager should be notified immediately.
Forestry officials may inspect any charcoal production farm to verify whether the above procedures are in place.
The ministry encouraged charcoal burners to fully comply with the above set guidelines. Failure to implement these guidelines will lead to an immediate withdrawal of harvesting and marketing permits.
Hailwa said the measures are aimed to prevent occurrence of uncontrolled forest or veld fires that destroy vast forested lands in the country annually.