Farmer sustains serious burns in runaway Free State veld fire

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  • A Free State farmer sustained serious burns while helping to put out a veld fire. 
  • The runaway fire was allegedly started by protesters.
  • Hundreds of head of game and livestock have been lost in the fire.

A farmer is fighting for his life after being trapped in a runaway veld fire in the Free State that was reportedly started during a service delivery protest on Monday.

Netwerk24 and eNCA reported that the farmer was trying to help extinguish the flames.

The fire has destroyed around 100 000ha of farmland around Hoopstad, Christiana and Hertzogville in the Free State, News24 reported earlier.

According to Netwerk24, Tewie Nel, 28, is in a critical condition after sustaining second and third-degree burns. Nel was one of many farmers who tried to stop the flames after protesters started a fire by setting alight tyres, as well as a piece of field, outside the town.

He was reportedly being treated in the Rosepark Hospital in Bloemfontein.

Tewie's father, Gerhard, who is also a farmer and who previously worked as an orthopaedic surgeon at the same hospital, told Netwerk24 his son had suffered third-degree burns over 40% of his body.

tewie
Tewie Nel, 28, a farmer from Hertzogville, sustained serious burns in the Free State veld fire.

"Both his hands and arms, both legs, his back, his side and stomach were burnt and he sustained second-degree burns to his face," he reportedly said.

Worst fire in years

Hundreds of head of game and livestock have been lost in the fire, according to an estimate from the Free State Agricultural Organisation.

The fire was one of the worst seen in recent years, said the organisation's operations manager, Jack Armor.

"In some situations, cattle ran as far as seven farms to escape the fire," added Armor. "Although there was no loss of life, we are aware of farmers who have suffered serious burns and we wish them a speedy recovery."

WATCH | Runaway fires destroy 100 000ha of Free State farmland

The fire was reportedly started during a service delivery protest on Monday.

According to a statement from the FF Plus, protesting Tokologo residents torched a water tank, which resulted in the runaway fire.

"Commercial as well as emerging farmers in the area already suffered severe losses prior to the fires due to the long drought and the current poor economic climate. These farmers will not be able to recover from the millions of rand of damage caused by the fires on their own without government aid," said provincial FF Plus leader Jan van Niekerk.

free state fire
Farmers try to put out a devastating veld fire in the Free State on Tuesday.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele said JoJo tanks were damaged and 17 people appeared in the Hertzogville Magistrate's Court on Tuesday on charges of public violence and malicious damage to property.

Eleven people were arrested on Sunday and the others were taken into custody on Monday.

"They were all granted R1 000 bail each… Seven of them could not afford it and had to remain in custody pending their next court appearance on 5 November," Makhele said.

- Compiled by Riaan Grobler

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