WARNING: Fire danger rises

The Lowveld and Escarpment Fire Protection Association (Lefpa) has declared a state of emergency following the sudden spike in temperatures over the past couple of days.

“All burning permits have been suspended until further notice,” said Lefpa manager, Andre Scheepers.

The South African Weather Service has also issued a warning that extremely hot conditions and high levels of discomfort would persist, with the mercury rising to as much as 38 degree Celcius this week.

It will subside by Friday. Maximum temperatures will drop to 16 degrees Celsius, but will return to the mid-thirties on Monday, with little chance of rain.

These conditions are set to last until mid-November, and Lefpa has officially called all hands on deck, and urged locals to do everything in their power to prevent wildfires.

Also read: Adhere to fire safety rules, warn firefighters

“Due to sudden high temperatures and below-normal rainfall, very strict fire-making prohibitions will remain in place until November 15, though the fire season normally closes on October 31,” said Scheepers.

On Tuesday, the fire danger index (FDI), reached mid-orange, which means fires have the potential spread rapidly – up to two kilometres per hour.

“We don’t expect this to let up soon, and may even worsen over the next two weeks. Even though scattered thunder showers are imminent, there is a low probability of relief,” he said and added that by now, we usually would have had rain.

A warning has been issued within the boundaries of the Lefpa and Ehlanzeni district, that no person shall, until further notice make a fire in open air, unless:

• Fires are made within a demarcated picnic or camping area, caravan park or holiday resort, but only at places within such an area which have been specifically prepared and maintained for that purpose, provided that such fires are properly extinguished with water and/or sand.
• Fires are used for the preparation of food on residential stands.
• Fires are made on residential and industrial stands in proclaimed townships.
• Fires made for initiation-school purposes, but only at places which have been specially prepared for that purpose and maintained to prevent fires from spreading.
Firefighters urge the public to help them prevent these devastating fires from occurring by following this preventative measures:
• Smoking – If out walking or having a picnic, be sure to dispose of cigarettes carefully.
• Braais – In most Lowveld areas it is actually illegal to light any fire, including braais, without the permission of the landowner.
• Litter – Take your litter home with you. Even a discarded glass bottle can easily start a fire.Please ensure that:
• All equipment is in working condition
• Your resources match the fire risks identified.
• You are aware of the current fire danger index (FDI).
• Operational procedures is implemented to ensure quick response, should an emergency arise.
• Water points have adequate supply.
• Airstrips are operational and all roads are either graded or slashed.
• All staff are reminded of the dangers of warming fires and smoking, among others.

Stefan de Villiers

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