Hottest Summer in 30 Years

Information from Lefpa newsletter, All Fired Up.

According to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) regarding the summer we are currently sweating through, this year this is the warmest summer in 30 years.

According to an article in Landbou, the summer of 2018 / 2019 has given us more heat wave days and higher average temperatures than normal. A weak El Niño weather phenomenon has made forecasts more difficult but as stated in the DAFF weather advisory for 2019, ‘Overall higher temperatures are still expected to move towards the late-summer and early-autumn periods. There is a particularly confident forecast for above-normal maximum temperatures over the northern parts of the country.’

Data from the ARC weather stations show that the September to December 2018 maximum temperatures in parts of South Africa rose up to 5°C higher than usual, especially in Limpopo province. That’s a staggering figure, affecting every living organism. We, therefore, have to plan for increasingly dry, hot weather and DAFF has the following advice for veld fire prevention:

An owner of the land who is obliged to prepare and maintain a firebreak must ensure that, with due regard to the weather, climate, terrain and vegetation of the area, the following is taken care of in terms of preparing firebreaks (Chapter 4 of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act No. 101 of 1998):

  • It has to be wide enough and long enough to have a reasonable chance of preventing a veld fire from spreading to or from neighbouring land.
  • It does not cause soil erosion. Erosion control measures must be implemented at the firebreak.
  • It is reasonably free of inflammable material capable of carrying a veld fire across it.
  • Firebreaks may be temporary or permanent.
  • Firebreaks should consist of fire-resistant vegetation, inflammable materials, bare ground or a combination of these.
  • Firebreaks must be located in such a way as to minimize risk to the resources being protected.

Firebreaks can be made through the following methods:

  • Mineral earth firebreak: through ploughing, grading or other earth movements.
  • Use of herbicides.
  • Use of animals to overgraze specifically to minimise fuel.
  • Plant fire-resistant plants.
  • Plant species selected for vegetated firebreaks must be non-invasive and capable of retarding the spread of fire.

Maintaining firebreaks:

  • Mow, disk, or graze vegetative firebreaks to avoid a build-up of excess litter and to control weeds.
  • Inspect all firebreaks for woody materials.
  • Inspect firebreaks at least annually and rework bare ground firebreaks as necessary.
  • Repair erosion control measures as necessary.
  • Access by vehicles or people must be controlled.
  • Bare ground firebreaks which are no longer needed must be stabilized i.e. sow grass, mulch.


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