‘Ghosts’ add fuel to the fire

Durban - The myth that lighting a veld fire helps to escape the clutches of ghostly apparitions while walking alone in the dark, is having devastating effects on farming areas around Umzimkhulu.

The practice by local people has been blamed as a major cause of veld fires that ravage the area during the winter months.

That is according to Umzimkhulu Municipality spokesperson Willie Mgcina.

Mgcina said many people, especially in the rural areas where there is no electricity, believe that when they encounter a “ghost” at night, they must light a fire to help protect them from the entity.

He said although the municipality has been running fire awareness campaigns to curb the veld fires, they realise that the myths are their biggest challenge.

Already, he said, many veld fires have been started in the area.

“Individuals coming back from a social event walking at night who think they has seen a ghost, believe they must create light, something that will burn brighter than the ghost. They believe ghosts do not want anything burning brighter than them. They will start a fire that will light up the whole area. They believe that fire will scare away the ghost and they will get a chance to escape.

“Once the fire is burning, they flee and will not concern themselves with the damage it [the fire] could cause. Homes and grazing fields will be destroyed by that fire,” continued Mgcina.

Mgcina said veld fires hinder agricultural progress because farmers suffer the most with farming produce being disturbed.

In June last year, the Umzimkhulu and Kokstad areas were declared disaster areas after runaway veld fires damaged farm lands, homesteads and killed livestock.

Mgcina said the municipality was putting a number of interventions in place to deal with veld fires including fire awareness campaigns and identifying and punishing offenders.

Nompilo Zondi, the provincial communications officer for Working on Fire, said the myth of being able to evade ghosts by starting a fire existed in the area. “Older people believe that, but they do not start the fires, it’s the young people that start fires.”

She said this month alone there have been about 10 fires in the Kokstad area alone.

“Most of these fires are started by communities.”

Nompilo Zondi, provincial communications officer in KwaZulu-Natal for Working on Fire, yesterday urged motorists to be alert about the danger of smoke across the road, saying they should stop before entering the smoke and make sure it is clear before they enter or attempt to drive through it.

“On many occasions we have incidents where motorists attempt to drive through smoke only to find once they have entered the smoke that it is too thick. Invariably they stop in the middle of the smoke; this is dangerous as the next vehicle drives into them, but they can also suffocate in the smoke.”

Working on Fire will be burning along the N3 from Cedara off-ramp to Lions River off-ramp next week from Monday to Friday (depending on the weather). Zondi said there will be signs and warnings to alert the public. “We will also have vehicles and people working along the left lane and fast/right lane. We request that motorists obey the signs and the pointsman on duty for their own safety and the safety of people.” — WR

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