Public warned against dangers of veld fires

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism has warned farmers, property owners and the general public to take the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of veld fires during the dry winter season.

Romeo Muyunda, the ministry’s spokesperson said the country is currently in its fire season which has been observed in the past to cause massive damage to the environment, properties and people. The dry season stretches between April and September.

He added that since the start of the fire season, almost half a million hectares of grazing have already been destroyed by veld fires.

“The fire season is usually characterized by strong winds, high temperature and dry vegetation resulting in fires burning uncontrollably. Since the start of the dry season in April, we have recorded a total of 499 244 hectares of grazing was burned down by uncontrolled fires,” said Muyunda

He went on to say that the ministry has activated the fire management system to deal with this expected natural disaster.

“The ministry will be implementing its fire management strategy which entails fire prevention and suppression activities, community outreach programs, education and awareness as well as stakeholder engagement,” he added.

Last year the ministry recorded 2.4 million hectares of bush woodlands, forests and grasslands destroyed by fires

In addition, five 3 people were killed in fires, five were injured and livestock and wildlife were lost in the same year.

“Veld fires were recorded in Kavango West with 110 334 hectares, Kavango West 815 724, Otzozondjupa 577 926, Zambezi 327 326, Kunene 64 131, Erongo 47 545, Hardap 96 679, Khomas 49 032, Karas 93 578, Omaheke 93 579, Oshana 24, Omusati 212 5229 and Oshikoto with 11 954 hectares destroyed. While in 2021 the country recorded a total of 3 million hectares burned areas.

City of Windhoek (CoW) Spokesperson, Harold Akweenye said the city is always prepared to fight any type of fires

“Well, it is our mandate to ensure that we are always ready in case of fire. The city is ready even now. Even if a taxpayer’s property is burning we will put it out,” he said.

Last month CoW embarked on an initiative to chop down and cut down old dead trees and dry grass to prevent bushfires from ever happening or escalating. The Disaster Risk Management Division proactively took measures to prevent and prepare for field fires in Windhoek, following a record number of field fires experienced in the capital.

These efforts involve strategically placed firebreaks resembling gravel roads to serve as robust barriers, impeding the spread of fires and acting as protective firewalls. Alongside considering wind direction and vegetation, the firebreaks effectively impede the rapid spread of fires and ensure convenient accessibility for firefighting teams.

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