Ban on fires during dry season


27-June-2009

The forestry section of the Department of Environment has announced the ban, which took effect on June 19, and acting director Basil Esther has explained why it is necessary.

“It is now the dry season of the year, and this is one of the precautions we have to take to prevent unnecessary and dangerous fires, which can easily burn out of control,” he said.

“We are working closely with partners such as the police to ensure that people do not light illegal fires anywhere, including at their homes for burning waste, or on sites being cleared for construction.

“During this season we usually have less rainfall and high evaporation, which causes plants either to dry up or be unable to retain water as they should. This alone is dangerous since it is easier for a fire to burn out of control once it spreads to such plants.”

Mr Esther said they are working with the meteorological services and getting regular updates on weather conditions, as well as having people on standby in case of a forest fire or one spreading out of control.

He added that only charcoal-making businesses will be able to get special permits to light fires, but they will have to meet strict safety criteria. Forestry officials will make regular visits to ensure the sites meet their conditions, such as having a fire-break all around the charcoal-pit and enough water to put out the fires.

The forestry section reminds the public that people caught lighting illegal fires will be prosecuted under the Lighting of Fires Restriction Act.

If found guilty, they can be given a R1,000 fine or up to a year in prison. They can also be made to pay three times the value of the trees and plants they destroy in the process, which is covered under the Act to protect breadfruit and other trees.

Mr Esther said there have been cases of people successfully prosecuted and sentenced for lighting illegal fires.
Members of the public wishing to report an illegal or out-of-control fire can call the Greenline on 72 21 11.

The forestry section has also said that when the ban is lifted, permits will no longer be free for any type of outside burning activity but will cost R75.

Mr Esther said this is aimed especially at deterring people from wanting to burn waste at home and encouraging them to make compost instead.  

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