Northern Cape farmers unite with SANDF to combat devastating fire

A file image of veld fire.
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Northern Cape farmers joined hands with members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in their efforts to douse the flames of a devastating fire that claimed the lives of six soldiers.

The fire, believed to have originated from a nearby mine located 15 kilometres from the Army Base, is said to be relatively contained.

Three members of the SANDF who were injured in the Friday blaze at the Lohatla SA combat training centre are still in hospital.

Friday’s fire left a trail of destruction. With deaths, damaged army property and grazing land.

Efforts to douse the flames continued, with many lending a helping hand.

SANDF says it was impossible to put out the fire amid Friday’s strong winds.

An inquiry into the incident has been instituted. SANDF General Patrick Dube says, “What happened yesterday was a fire in three areas that came to our training range, and of course, the speed of the fire was too high. Those who were there say the wind was at 70 kilometres per hour, so we couldn’t contain that fire even though we had equipment to deal with fire, but it managed to penetrate to areas that have been established to conduct an exercise.”

AGRI Northern Cape says their farmers have lost over 480 000 hectares of grazing land since the veld fire season started in June.

The union says they will assist affected farmers with fodder once the fires have been put out.

Eben Antonissen from Agri Northern Cape says, “It saddens us to learn that the wildfire that was started yesterday close to Kathu claimed the lives of our SA servicemen and women. The fire started at mine-owned properties and spread to Lohatla, which could not be contained due to the perfect weather conditions for wildfires. The devastation that such wildfires leave behind is enormous. We will help affected farmers with emergency fodder after the fire.”

The daunting task of informing relatives of the deceased SANDF members got underway on Saturday.

The South African National Defence Force says it will provide counselling for the families of the deceased and their colleagues.