Fires rage around KZN, driven by high winds

2014-06-17 00:00

RUNAWAY fires raged through plantations in the Melmoth, Kokstad and Harding areas across KwaZulu-Natal yesterday.

KZN Fire Protection Association operations manager Simon Thomas said the fires at Weza plantation (near Kokstad) and at Melmoth in Zululand were contained within fire lines yesterday but were still burning strongly.

He said the fires started at the weekend and were fanned by gale-force winds accompanying an approaching cold front, which resulted in firefighting aircraft being grounded until yesterday.

“The wind calmed [yesterday] and there is a light southerly breeze but we are expecting a bit of blow again on Wednesday in the northern area around Vryheid,” he said.

Thomas said conditions are tinder-dry and not much rain is being forecast, creating ideal conditions for runaway fires.

He said the cause of the fires cannot be determined until a full investigation has been done. “Any spark can start a blaze in these conditions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Working on Fire KZN sent up a helicopter and two aircraft to help ground teams fight massive fires raging through several plantations at Harding yesterday.

Provincial co-ordinator Tracy Carter said the “pumping wind” had hampered efforts to bring the fires under control over the weekend and they continued to burn yesterday.

— Witness Reporter.

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