• August 8th, 2020

Veld fires are natural or man-made

Veld fires can occur naturally or as man-made. Naturally, veld fires are an event that serves an ecological role in its effects. The role of fire amongst others is to stimulate new plant growths and maintain vegetation structure. On the other hand, man-made fires are either started for a purpose or out of negligence. Veld fires, be it natural or man-made, are dangerous and can be devastating. These fires damage farm infrastructure and the environment, and result in injuries and deaths in livestock and wild animals, and humans as well. Therefore, a fire management plan should be included in the bigger farm management plan under the risk management component. 

The natural veld fires mainly occur during the spring months (September – November) and are caused by lightning strikes as the rainy season and thunderstorms activities start. In some parts of Namibia, such as in the regions of Kavango, fire activities have already started. This means farmers should already prepare to avoid huge losses. 

Veld fires are mainly influenced by the amount of fuel load and the wind. The fuel load refers to the materials that support fire. These are dry grass, moribund materials, bush, branches, leaves, etc. The more the fuel loads the higher the fire intensity and impact, and on the other hand the wind influences the direction, speed, and spatial scale of the fire. 

The man-made fire can be categorised as negligence fire and controlled fire. The negligence fires result from the following, amongst others:
– Vehicles driving or stopping on dry grass may cause fire as the hot vehicle parts/engine can ignite dry grass easily. The vehicle can also be burned. 
– Cigarettes smoking near or throwing cigarettes stubs on dry grass. 
– Making camp fires near dry grass at camp sites. Wind can also blow the sparks onto the grass.
– Poachers can deliberately start fire to trap or move animals towards a preferred direction. Hunting with guns, cooking and smoking also cause fire.
– Empty glass bottles or pieces of broken bottle can magnify the sun’s heat and cause fire when left on dry grass. 

The controlled fires are used as a management tool in grazing management (e.g. controlling bush encroachment), and in crop fields. Controlled fires can become uncontrolled if not well planned in terms of season, wind, fuel load, firebreaks and firefighting equipment, amongst others. Fighting veld fires is not an easy exercise, it can be costly and devastating. The most basic things to do are:

All firefighting equipment must be accessible, ready and functional at all times. The equipment are readily available in the market, e.g. Agra, KaapAgri, and others. All persons at the farm must be well informed and trained. The farm roads and firebreaks should be well maintained, cleared and accessible in the event of firefighting.

Farmers should always and earlier inform their neighbours, firefighters, and nearest authorities (e.g. police, etc.). During firefighting, an effective communication channel should be established to ensure effective coordination so as to avoid devastating consequences. It is therefore important that a fire management plan is developed and adopted. 

* Erastus Ngaruka is Technical Officer within Agribank’s Agri Advisory Services Division. 

New Era Reporter
2018-10-16 10:11:10 | 1 years ago

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