Tel:082 923 4087 | Mail: jningram@iafrica.com



May 2014

This month, with the onset of autumn, we digress from our regular series on invasive alien plants to focus on an equally important threat to the environment, namely wildfires. Alien invasive plants are often massive contributors to the intensity of fires (eg. Chromolaena - Triffid Weed or Parafienbos) and also often obstruct access by fire fighters. (eg. Lantana, Wattle jungles, etc.) Their control contributes hugely to reducing fuel loads and the intensity of wildfires.


The purpose of the Veld and Forest Fire Act No. 101 of 1998 is to prevent and combat wild fires. The act applies to all land-owners and persons in control of land.

The act requires land managers to:

  • Prepare and maintain adequate fire-breaks during the fire season
  • Have adequate and effective fire-fighting equipment available
  • Have adequate training in combatting fires for you and your staff
  • Have adequate protective clothing for you and your staff for fire-fighting
  • When burning fire-breaks, ensure your neighbours have been advised thereof
  • Ensure that a responsible person is present when you are absent during the fire season, to manage and extinguish any fires that may occur
  • Ensure that your neighbours and your Fire Protection Association (FPA) are advised as soon as possible of a fire occurring on your land

FIRE-BREAKS: The law does not prescribe how fire-breaks are to be prepared, but they should, if possible, be sited on property boundaries or, where this is impractical, they can be located elsewhere - with the agreement of your neighbour. Breaks should ideally be burnt, or at least be free of any combustible material. Breaks of minimum 10m. width on either side of a property boundary, burnt rotationally in alternate years are the most desirable.


FIRE EQUIPMENT: Basic equipment requirements are beaters (conveyor belting attached to a wooden handle of 2m. length) and 15 litre knapsack sprayers. A “bakkie-sakkie” unit or tractor-drawn water tanker are most useful if available and can also be shared by an adjoining group of land-owners. Other useful equipment includes a drip torch for starting fires, cellphones or hand-held radios for communication and a first aid kit.


TRAINING: A basic fire-fighting course for staff and a crew-leader course for land-owners are desirable.


PROTECTIVE CLOTHING: Leather boots, cotton overalls and leather gloves are basic requirements for fire-fighters. More advanced equipment includes balaclavas, fire helmets and t-shirts.


FIRE PREVENTION ASSOCIATIONS (FPA’s):  Two FPA’s exist in our area - namely the Lowveld & Escarpment FPA (LEFPA) and (PAFPA). Land-owners are strongly advised to become members of their local FPA’s. Some benefits of membership are the following:

  • Fire protection advice, rules and regulations
  • List of equipment minimum requirements for different category landowners
  • Burning permit issuing
  • Presumption of innocence in a legal case (non-membership of an FPA means that, under the act, guilt is presumed and you have to prove your innocence)
  • Daily fire danger index (FDI) forecasts

FIRE DANGER INDEX (FDI): The national fire danger rating system is as follows:
BLUE: Insignificant fire hazard, no precautions needed
GREEN: Low fire hazard, fires in the open air allowed
YELLOW: Moderate fire hazard, no fires without permission
ORANGE: High fire hazard, no fires allowed
RED: Extreme fire hazard, no fires allowed and extreme caution required
In conclusion, it must be emphasised that controlled fires are periodically necessary to prevent grassland from becoming moribund and to reduce fuel loads and so avoid devastating un-controlled fires. Veld should generally be burnt every 2-3 years in our area. The best time to burn, to promote plant diversity is after the first good spring rainfall of 25-50 mm.


References:
Lowveld & Escarpment Fire Protection Association (LEFPA)
Safire Insurance Company Ltd.
Working on Fire (WOF)

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January 2014

After Indonesia and Brazil, South Africa is the third-most biologically diverse country in the world. Occupying only 1% of the world’s terrestrial land area it is home to...

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December 2013

Since 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of Biological Control of IAP’s in South Africa, it is appropriate that we take a closer look at this programme in this, the last issue of 2013.

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November 2013

This month, we describe the first two alien invaders that are currently quite evident in our area as they are early spring bloomers

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October 2013

One of the prime causes of habitat degradation - namely the introduction of alien plant species.

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September 2013

Biodiversity is the all-encompassing term to describe the variety of all life on Earth.

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February 2014

This month, we revert to our series on Alien Invader Plants (AIP’s) and how to identify and eradicate them.

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March 2014

As promised last month, our next “candidate” is the notorious weed Lantana camara.

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April 2014

This month, we look at a well-known weed of the high rainfall eastern areas of South Africa, namely Bugweed (Luis boom) Solanummauritianum..

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