To Burn or Not to Burn?

There are lots of different opinions and even different laws governing various activities around fires and veld burning. In an attempt to share as many ideas as possible, Dargle Conservancy hosted a morning of discussion this week in the lovely grassland covered hills above the mist-belt forest.

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Farmers who have been in the area for years and brand new landowners were amongst those who attended. Bobby Hoole of the Lion’s River Fire Protection Agency led the discussions. “I think days like this are important for all landowners to start understanding the use of fire as a management tool. Both big and small landowners need to co-exist within the broader fire management planning for the area.”

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If you are going to burn a firebreak, you need to notify the local Fire Protection Agency (FPA), failure to do so could result in a charge of negligence. Many insurers are insisting that landowners join the local FPA before they will consider coverage. Have you? www.lionsriverfpa.co.za

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The group agreed that the most basic ADVICE when planning to burn anything is:

  • If you are not 100% sure of what is best, ask a couple of ‘old-timers’ for their opinion BEFORE you strike the match.
  • DON’T just ask one person, you may have chosen the local pyromaniac!
  • ALWAYS consult with your neighbours so that when they see a puff of smoke they already know what your intentions are.
  • ALWAYS be 150% prepared with equipment. Overkill on prevention is far better that trying to stop a fire when it is already running.
  • Most people are happy to assist with advice rather than running around trying to mop up a mess later.

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The Midlands Conservancies Forum website has a page dealing with specifically with fire: http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/fire.php

A selection of downloadable documents around the issue make interesting reading. Have a look: http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/firemore.php

Another interesting document designed to encourage grassland managers to think about and observe the dynamics of their particular management scenario, and to apply biodiversity-friendly principles is: Grazing and Burning Guidelines: Managing Grasslands for Biodiversity and Livestock Production – which you can download here: http://www.grasslands.org.za/document-archive/category/5-agriculture

“Fire has been around for many years as a grass management tool – however with increased population densities and smaller properties, more control and better guidelines need to be put in place to ensure that correct management of our grassland resource is achieved.” concludes Bobby.

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Photos by Nicole Schafer

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