Blaze warning: officials vow to crack down on fire starters

2009-09-04 00:00

AS the heat wave persists in KwaZulu-Natal, the Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs has issued strong warnings to people dealing with any objects that may lead to the spread of runaway fires to remain alert, adding that any threat to tourist attractions is a risk to the economy.

Several wildfire outbreaks were experienced in different parts of the province as the heat reached alarming proportions.

Infernos on Wednesday swept through critical tourist nodes such as Cathedral Peak, famous for its Drakensberg World Heritage Site, as well as areas in Winterton, Eshowe and Hluhluwe, where grazing land was damaged, threatening the game parks managed by Ezemvelo Wildlife.

Blazes swept through an oil processing factory in Westmead near Pinetown after a grass fire, fuelled by strong winds, got out of control.

“We are warning people to exercise extra caution in dealing with any objects that may lead to fires particularly as the province is experiencing dry and humid weather conditions which put the province on the high risk of exposure to veld fires,” said MEC Nomusa Dube, who is also the political head of disaster management in the province.

The SA Weather Bureau has predicted that temperatures would remain high right into the weekend.

According to Dube, all their disaster management centres have been activated and teams deployed on the ground.

“We have been successful in putting the fire under control in some areas. We will thereafter conduct an assessment of the damage caused.”

However she warned that people should guard against accidental “ignition” of fires, which might be caused by paraffin stoves and candles, amongst other things.

“We don’t want a situation like that of last year, when we lost some 30 lives during the blaze that raged through the province.

“Those caught burning fires will face the full might of the law,” she said.

Dube added that the public needed to be alerted to the fact that any threat to tourist attractions is a risk to the economy as tourism generates jobs and boosts the public purse.

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