The fire that relentlessly ravaged the landscape of the Magoebaskloof mountainside for three days cost an estimated R800 000 to eventually extinguish. By the end of the third day roughly 120 hectares was destroyed by the fire on the farm Diepkloof which is owned by ZZ2.
Like every year, fires seem to flare up right at the start of the annual fire prohibition causing damage to properties and affecting people and livestock around Tzaneen and the surrounding region.
View images of the fire here: The Burning Magoeba
This year’s fire in the Kloof however, was different. It was ferocious and though Letaba Fire Protection Association (LFPA) ran point during the mammoth task of containing and eventually extinguishing the fire, the success of this operation came down to communities banding together as one in the face of adversity.
Teams of foresters, volunteer firefighters, and able residents from Haenertsburg, Georges Valley, Tzaneen, Letsitele and even Phalaborwa joined hands with the ground crew from the LFPA and Mopani District Disaster Management to battle the blaze.
Supporting these ground crews were two LFPA helicopters, a Bell Huey and a B3 Squirrel accompanied by Siem Venter in the Cessna spotter plane keeping an eye on the fire from high above. Incident Command was a team effort between Ruoan Snyman and Trevor Phillips from the LFPA and Hannes Steyn, Head of Mopani Disaster Management.
Between 70 and 100 people operated a total of 24 bakkie sakkies, two trucks, a tractor and a water tanker every day over the course of the three day battle. These brave men were supported and nourished by a team of dedicated support staff lead by Louise Claassens, Naomi Excell, Hanneri van Tonder and Megan Baragwanath. These ladies supplied food and water and ensured open communications between the various teams throughout the fight.
Emergency services were on standby at all times and local police and traffic services ensured that the R71 remained tightly monitored and cordoned off for the safety of the firefighters and motorists. It was a grand effort and one that proved what can be accomplished by a community in unison.
Contrary to other media reports, the fire was not started by a truck accident. It was started by a spark which was caused by the branch of a Wattle tree that touched an overhead powerline. The truck accident that occurred on Monday morning was as a result of the thick smoke that covered the roadway which obscured the vision of the driver of the truck and caused him to crash through the barriers and land his vehicle right in the middle of the already uncontrolled blaze.
There was no loss of life during the fire and no animals were reportedly harmed either. The exact extend of the damage was still being calculated by the time we went to print yesterday.