Wildfires threaten sensitive North West World Heritage site

Wildfires threaten sensitive North West World Heritage site

Thousands of hectares of veld were destroyed and the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve threatened when a wildfire broke out in the Magaliesberg mountains in North West in the fourth week of September.

The reserve also forms part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site.

Two aircrafts, each releasing about 56 loads consisting of 1 500l of water at a time, had to be called in to bring the fire under control.

This prevented the fire, which had raged for several days, from spreading across the mountains, although the estimated area that was destroyed amounted to more than 3 000ha.

According to Eric Stoch, chairperson of the North West Umbrella Fire Protection Association, the fire was brought under control on 22 September.

The total damage from wildfires in the area that originally started almost a week earlier was estimated at 3 500ha, while six houses also burnt down and four people were hospitalised. Countless animals also perished in the inferno.

Boeta du Toit, CEO at Agri North West, said the damage to the environment and grazing had resulted in farmers having to buy in additional feed for their livestock.

He added that Gerhard van Rooyen, who farms blueberries and strawberries undercover at the foot of the Magaliesberg, had suffered about R1,5 million in damages to the shade netting on his farm when a fire broke out on a neighbouring farm and spread to his property.

The total area that had been destroyed by wildfires in North West since the beginning of September was estimated at 15 240ha, with damages and the loss of grazing estimated at nearly R18 million, he said.

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