The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) says it has recorded a 16.8 percent increase of hectarage of land lost due to veld fires since the beginning of the 2018 fire season.

From its onset on the 31st of July, the 2018 fire season has already recorded worrisome figures showing a 16.8 percent rise in hectarage of land lost which translates to 69 958 hectares lost in 232 veld fire incidents against last year’s 58 193 hectares recorded in 147 incidents.

EMA Acting Environmental Education and Publicity Manager Mr Rambwayi Mapako said as precautionary measure property owners must urgently construct fire guards around their premises to reduce loses in the event of any outbreaks.

“Our fire season begin at the 31st of July until the onset of rain season. We are encouraging people to construct fire guards and mostly fire guards should be at least 9 metres from the wall depending on the area. But there are some areas which are conducive to high to extreme fire risk so in these areas we encourage people to extend the width of the fire guard so that the fire doesn’t destroy the property,” he said.

He highlighted that the agency is facing challenges of compliance by property owners in terms of the law which states that every property holder should have a standard fire guard around it.

“We are facing challenges of uptake in terms of the statutory which calls for every property owner to have a standard fire guard at their premises, some cite lack of manpower and lack of proper equipment to construct proper fire guards. But we encourage people to use their means to fight loss of live due to fire,” said Mr Mapako.

The normal to above normal rainfall season witnessed in the 2017/ 2018 season resulted in high biomass in most parts of the country creating a huge fire risk. Statistics from the agency indicate that at least 6 lives were lost due to veld fire incidents.