Fire incidences high

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THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has blamed the La nina effect for the increase in the number of fire incidences which occurred during the 2017 fire season.
In a media alert, EMA revealed that the number of fire incidences recorded in 2017 were 2 705 compared to 1 652 cases in 2016.
This 5,9 percentage increase translates to 1 268 534 hectares of land burnt compared to 1 197 335 hectares burnt during the same period in 2016.
Statutory instrument 7 of 2007 of the Environment Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection Regulations states that it is an offence to deliberately start open fires during the fire season, failing to put fireguards, passing or driving past a fire without stopping to assist in putting it out and failing to report a fire within seven working days.
Despite attempts to safeguard property and lives and stop the menace to the bio-physical and socio-economic environment, deaths continue to occur.
The fire season is charecterised by dry vegetation, hot and windy conditions which are conducive to fire outbreaks.
This year’s media alert reports the scourge has killed six people. Property worth US$300 000 was lost compared to US$241 569 in 2016.
EMA also notes the increase in veld fire incidences, area burnt and the value of property destroyed can be largely attributed to the La Nina effects which brought about more than average rainfall during the 2016/2017 rain season, resulting in massive vegetative growth.
It adds that this biomass was the necessary ingredient for veld fire occurrences and the situation could have been worse had it not been for the interventions by the agency.
These included fireguard construction, hay baling thatch and broom grass harvesting and early burning.
EMA also says the veld fire risk indices obtained through satellite measurements have widely improved the forecasting and monitoring of fire and its impact.
Using biomass and the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index NDVI as a proxy for biomass, the agency mapped the susceptibility of the country to veld fires.
Biomass represents an important variable in the fire equation and this is any matter which can burn when it is dry.
The results indicate that the 2018 fire season is generally at the medium to high risk for the greater part of the country as compared to the 2017 fire season which was in the high to extreme fire risk.
The 2018 veld fire prediction is indicating that 39 percent will be in the low risk, 22 percent medium risk, 37 percent high risk and 0,77 percent extreme risk categories.
From July 31 2018 to August 9 2018, a cumulative 232 incidences were recorded, resulting in a cumulative burnt area of 69 958, 61ha. This translates to 16,8 percent increase compared to the same period in 2017 when 147 fire incidences were recorded during the same period, burning 58 193,04ha of land.
The increase is attributed to more fuel load in terms of biomass accumulation caused by the late rains which continued in the early months of winter.
EMA encouraged communities in the fire prone areas to be on high alert during this period.
It adds that the communities need to ensure the fireguards are free from any flammable material and that fire-fighting equipment is in place as well as heed weather reports.
EMA said an African Monitoring of Environmental Sustainable Development (AMESD) satellite fire detecting machine is another tool that alerts EMA veld fires anywhere in Zimbabwe by recording a 50m by 50m radius of that place.
Once the co-ordinates are noted, EMA sends it team on the ground to have the fire put out. The machine also helps us to monitor fires that may cross into the country from the neighbouring countries.
Veld fires are caused by opening up of arable land using fire, deliberate lighting of fires, gold panning, improper disposal of ash and clearing of vegetation for easy hunting, among other things.
Putting fireguards of at least nine metres without inflammable material on either sides of the boundary helps reduce veld fires.
The construction of the fireguards must be done between April and June before the fire season begins from July 31 to October 31.
Having these fireguards around paddocks, woodlots, homesteads, croplands and boundary fences helps protect property.
Acquiring knapsack sprayers or water bowsers, using counter burning methods, reducing fuel load by hay baling and beaters also helps.

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