Two workers badly burnt after running through blaze

2010-07-22 00:00

TWO farm workers were seriously burnt when they were caught in a timber fire in Underberg on Monday.

The fire burnt through a privately owned timber farm and spread to other nearby timber farms before it was brought under control by firefighters after more than 12 hours.

The two men were injured when a firebreak they had been helping a farmer to burn blazed out of control and spread to the trees.

They were trapped inside a vehicle as the fire encircled and moved towards them.

They jumped out of the vehicle and ran through the blaze, sustaining serious injuries.

John Pearce, a fire protection officer with the Kwasani Fire Protection Association, said the two workers had no choice. “The huge timber fire had circled them inside the car; they either would have to run through the fire [which they did] or they would have burnt to death inside the car.

“They sustained serious injuries and were transported immediately to hospital by our medical services.”

Commenting on the presence of untrained farm workers in a fire that required professional firemen, Pearce said that is the way fire is fought in the area. “If ever there is a fire, the farmers and their workers are the first to respond. If they did not, there would be no one responding to that fire.”

He said it took them until 11 pm on Monday to get the fire under control. “One of the things was that we did not have any air support,” said Pearce.

“Mondi and Sappi have the first call on the firefighting planes, so on Monday, all the planes had been deployed to other fires in the province.”

Pearce said the Agriculture Department has been to the area to check the damage.

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