Negligence causes hundreds of fires

Fire fighting services in Pietermaritzburg have already dealt with 165 fires in the first nine days of September .

Fire fighting services in Pietermaritzburg have already dealt with 165 fires in the first nine days of September .

Pietermaritzburg fire operations manager Essack Khan said August was also a busy month for them, because they dealt with 220 veld fires which claimed the lives of at least five people.

"At least five people were killed in those fires and 50percent of these cases were as a result of negligence," he said.

Most of the fires were as a result of people dropping cigarettes or neglecting to put out fires.

Khan said that many of the farms in the outlying rural areas surrounding Pietermaritzburg did not have fire breaks.

"So when there's a fire, it easily spreads onto their properties.

"And at informal settlements, people are using fire as an energy source and when the wind picks up it causes fires."

Hot weather and dry winds had exacerbated the spread of fires, and Khan urged people to be more alert and take more precautions.

The fire season usually started in May and ended in August.

"This time it's different - weather patterns have changed and we are still waiting for spring rains."

A huge forest fire started near Hilton on Monday afternoon as the temperature soared to 36°C.

Three fire crews from Pietermaritzburg and Howick with about 12 personnel worked throughout the night to put out the blaze.

The fire had been contained by midday yesterday.

"Our staff alternated shifts and although the fire season is over, there may be more fires during the week. However, we are expecting some rain tomorrow."

Meanwhile, local government spokesman Lennox Mabaso said the provincial cabinet would meet today to receive a detailed assessment of the fires that ravaged the uThungulu district two weeks ago.

Thirty-four people have died in the fires. - Sapa

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