Cold weather brings fire risk too

2011-07-26 23:43

Cape Town - Amid the Mpumalanga Highveld’s coldest winter in 20 years lurks another danger, the Working on Fire (WoF) programme warns.

The freezing conditions have turned vast areas of dry grassland, into a "ticking firebomb", the group says in a statement on Tuesday.

Trevor Wilson, General Manager for the Working on Fire Programme in Mpumalanga and manager of the province's Umbrella Fire Protection Association said that 295 wildfires had been reported since the start of the season on June 1.

Working on Fire had assisted at 95 of these fires.

"I am expecting these figures to triple by the end of October," Wilson said, warning that that fuel loads on the Highveld are higher than previous years and very dry.

Heavy summer rain across the Highveld had stimulated grass growth which the cold weather was now turning tinder dry, WoF said.

The South African Weather Service has forecast more very cold weather and snowfall over the southern Highveld.

Other than Mpumalanga, the two other provinces most at risk of wildfire were Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, according to the group's programme manager, Fred Mokgope.

"August is the windy month which means there is a far greater risk of a wildfire gaining momentum and getting out of control," Mokgope said.