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Fire season intensifies in Free State

───   KEKELETSO MOSEBETSI 10:25 Wed, 10 Jul 2024

Fire season intensifies in Free State | News Article
Photo: OFM News

"We need to call on people to ensure that our fire prevention measures are in place and we take particular care to make sure that we put out fires properly for cooking and heating purposes."

As the fire season intensifies, Free State authorities urge residents to take all necessary precautions to prevent further tragedies.

The Free State Agriculture MEC Elizabeth Cornelia Rockman issued the warning during a legislature sitting at the fourth chamber of the Raadsaal on Tuesday (9/7). Rockman urged residents to exercise caution during the current fire season, which is expected to last until the end of October.

"It's a difficult season from now until September, but realistically probably until the end of October. We need to call on people to ensure that our fire prevention measures are in place and we take particular care to make sure that we put out fires properly for cooking and heating purposes. We must also make sure that we do not make fires in an enclosed space; carbon monoxide is a real threat as we have seen the recent loss of life," she said.

Last year, Free State farmers suffered significant losses after the SPCA had to euthanise more than 150 animals that were severely burned in wildfires. The Willem Pretorius Nature Reserve in Clarens was also heavily impacted by veld fires.

This past weekend was particularly challenging, with veld fires reported in the eastern Free State, including Clarens, Fouriesburg, and Maluti-a-Phofung. Rockman, who visited Clarens with DA's Roy Jankhielsohn on Monday (8/7) noted the severe weather conditions and the struggles of farmers to contain the fires.

"Weather conditions were severe with strong winds which did not assist the situation. While there were no lives lost, we expect significant loss of livestock and game." 

On Sunday, at least 83 patients had to be evacuated and taken to other hospitals after two wards at National Hospital were engulfed by fire. Free State Health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi emphasised the need for caution.

 "It's very cold, and we are pleading with everyone around the Free State to take care of their smoking. Don’t smoke in areas where smoking could cause fire because there are heavy winds right now. When anything happens, a fire will spread very quickly and people will be in danger, so take care of your social habits," he said.

In another incident on Sunday (7/7), a 36-year-old man lost his life in a fire in Bloemfontein. Provincial police spokesperson Thabo Covane said the man's body was discovered burnt beyond recognition inside a shack dwelling at around 06:30. The deceased was last seen alive by his mother at around 00:30 when he arrived home in the Ipopeng Informal Settlement. He had asked for food before going into his backroom shack. The family and neighbours woke up at 01:30 to find the shack engulfed in flames. The fire was extinguished, but it was only later discovered the victim was still inside. Police have opened an investigation into the matter.

OFM News/ Kekeletso Mosebetsi dg

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