Veld Fires are blazes that get out of control, become wild, and in the process destroy extensive tracts of forests, grasslands, animals, people and their properties. This frequent burning has implication on carbon stocks and emissions, wildlife habitat; human health and life as well as livelihoods. Veld fires are a problem because they pose a risk to life, property and the environment.
Veld fire behaviour depends with moisture status of the veld and prevailing whether conditions. Violent fires result when velds are dry coupled with hot and windy conditions. The dry season (August to October) is usually characterized by hot and windy days whilst most grasses will be dry and deciduous trees would have shed their leaves. During this period, the risk of veld fire outbreaks is high.
The dry season in Zimbabwe is characterised by conducive weather conditions for the spread of fires such as strong winds, high temperatures and arid conditions. During this period the fuel load (e.g dry leaves, wood, dead plants and grass) is high, dry and more susceptible to fires.
Common Causes of Veld Fires
Improper household ash disposal
Deliberate lighting of fires/ arson
Children playing with matches
Reckless disposal of lit cigarette stubs especially by motorists
Lighting fire at road servitudes whilst waiting for early morning buses
This is the process of planning, preventing and fighting fires to protect people, property and the forest resources. This is an integral part of forest management to attain forestry, wildlife and land-use objectives. Construction of fire guards should be on the calendar of all land users and/or property owners each and every year to comply with Section 15(1) of Statutory Instrument No. 7 of 2007. This makes it mandatory to put in place standard fireguards as pre-suppression measures which prevent fires from spreading.
Best Practices in Fire Management
These are measures which should be put in place before the occurrence of a veldt fire to curb and prevent their rapid spread and the associated destruction.
Fire-fighting equipment should be at hand or in areas which are easily accessible through out the fire season.
Form fire-fighting teams or committees which can educate the local people on the best practices to use whilst putting out veldt fires in your communities.
The community should also monitor the areas from which most of the veld fires originate from in so that they will not be caught off-guard.
Construct standard fireguards which are at least 9metres wide on either side of a boundary line/ fence using either the tractor, ox-drawn plough or hoeing methods.
The communities should put in place fire warning systems like bells in order to warn the local inhabitants about a veldt fire.
What to Avoid in Fire Management
Do not use flammable material to put out a veld fire
Pregnant women, children, the elderly, sick, drunken people and the mentally challenged should not be present when putting out a veldt fire.
What Does the Law Say?
Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 Environmental Management (Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection) Regulations state that: It is the duty of the land user, owner or designated authority to put in place fire prevention measures; No person shall deliberately cause a fire outside residential or commercial premises during the period from July 31 to October 31 each year.
The land user, owner, farmer, lessee or designated authority is responsible for extinguishing all fires on their property regardless of the origin of the fire: and
In case of a fire outbreak any person within the vicinity of the fire other than the user or the owner of that land must extinguish the fire