Veld fires have been a characteristic annual catastrophe in the past decade destroying over a million hectares annually.The 2016 fire season recorded 1 652 incidences which resulted in the destruction of 1 197 335,52 hectares of land countrywide.
Compared to the 2015 fire season there was a 10,4 percent and 12 percent reduction in veld fire incidences and hectarage loss due to veld fires.There is need to maintain the downward trend during 2017 fire season and for that to be achieved a collective approach in fire prevention and management.
As we approach yet another dry period that follows a rainy season which was characterised by above normal rainfall, due to the La Nina effect.
This promoted the growth of grass, bushes, shrubs and trees in most parts of the country. This resulted in plenty of biomass; material that constitutes the fuel load for potentially violent veld fires.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) therefore encourages all members of the public to be on the lookout during the coming fire season as the 2017 Fire Risk Prediction indicates that fierce fires are likely to occur in most parts of the country.
Fire prediction is a tool used by EMA to inform fire risk zones and help to plan on interventions. It is based on normalised difference vegetation index and previous fire history.
According to the prediction, the Provinces that are most likely to be affected by veld fires include; Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Midlands and Mashonaland West.
This therefore means that anti-veld fire awareness programmes will be intensified in these areas.The second week of May each year has been declared the National Fire Week as guided by the National fire strategy of 2006.
The events for the week are meant to raise awareness on the need to protect the environment from veld fires.The National Fire Week is meant to be commemorated at every level; National, Provincial, District, Ward and Village.
Leaders at the various levels are therefore encouraged to take note and ensure the people they lead are sensitised on the need to prevent veld fires during this week.
How do you protect your Property from Veld Fires?
Every land owner has a responsibility to put in place the necessary fire suppression measures in and around their properties as stipulated in the Forest Act (Chapter 19:05) and Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 (Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection) Regulations.
According to these laws, it is an offence for a land owners and occupier not to take fire preventative measures such as the construction of standard fire guards which are at least 9 metres wide right round their property before the onset of the fire season.
Livelihood projects such as hay bailing and thatch grass harvesting, which reduce the fuel load, are encouraged during this time.Preparation time is now, construct 9meter wide fire-guards around your property.