Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has embarked on an awareness and inspection blitz to ensure that communities put up fireguards as the fire season approaches.
A fireguard is a belt of not less than nine meters that is cleared of all inflammable materials, to control the spread of veld fires.
Fireguards are essential for protecting and safeguarding vegetation, property and lives of various living organisms including human beings.
Many land users or property owners do not prioritise the construction of fire guards, although it is a strict statutory requirement that any land user or property owner should put in place fire prevention mechanisms and one of them is the construction of standard fireguards.
Veld fires have over the years resulted in unnecessary material, environmental and economic losses.
Communities’ livelihoods and property have been destroyed, and the natural environment depleted.
Grazing land is also destroyed with Insiza, Matobo, Umzingwane, Mangwe and Bulilima being fire risk districts.
EMA Matabeleland South provincial manager Mr Decent Ndlovu said communities should prepare their fireguards to avoid the loss of life and property.
“People should be ready to prepare and clear their fireguards so that they manage veld fires. We’re currently doing veld fire awareness campaigns and inspecting fireguards,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said hay baling mitigates the impact of veld fires.
“This is the time we do hay baling and clearance of fireguards so that when the fire season comes, it won’t affect the adjacent lands. The fireguards will prevent a fire from escaping into other areas. Fireguards should be nine metres wide on either side of the fence or boundary which means it should be 18 meters in total,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said the fire season stretches from July 31 to October 31.
“Before July 31, all this should’ve been prepared so that people are ready for the fire season. We’ll be educating communities on the importance of fireguards and then later reminding them through orders,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Fireguards should be constructed before the end of the month of June every year. The use of tractors, ox-drawn ploughs and hoes is highly recommended.
If fire is to be used as a tool in fireguard construction, the burning should be done when the weather conditions are conducive as advised by the Meteorological Services Department for controlled burning.
Fireguards should be constructed around farms, paddocks, woodlots, orchards, nurseries, croplands and boundary fences.
Construction of fireguards should be on the calendar of all land users and property owners each and every year in order to comply with legal provisions.
Meanwhile, property worth US$370 837 was destroyed by veld fires during last year’s fire season while eight lives were lost.
According to the EMA 2021 veld fire report, one million hectares of land were destroyed last year compared to 2020 when 806 000 ha was destroyed, which translated to a 24 percent increase.
3 948 fire incidents were recorded last year while 1 178 were recorded during the 2020 fire season.
The agency opened 82 dockets for fire related incidents.
Mashonaland West accounted for most of the offences with 31 followed by Matabeleland South at 22 and Mashonaland East accounting for 17 dockets.
A total of 677 tickets were issued to property owners and farmers for failing to put in place standard fire management measures. – @Yolisswa