Fire leaves desolate wasteland in its wake

Where proud farms once stood, a desolate wasteland lies in the wake of yesterday’s devastating inferno.

“It was horrendous… It was unreal!” said farmer, Gert Meyer, describing yesterday’s blaze.

“I saw the fire jumping fire breaks that were 50m and 60m wide. It jumped the main road and dirt roads in front of our eyes. We got word about the fire in the early hours of the morning and we put it out, but the fire stood up again at about 11am and, because of the wind, it burned out of control. Dr Moll, my neighbour, had fantastic fire breaks on his farm but his whole farm was still burned. All we could do was move onto the next fire break and back-burn until we had the fire under control.”

A look at yesterday’s fire as it ravaged Dr Moll’s farm.

Initial reports from emergency services indicated that the fire had started on the farm owned by Dr Nellis Moll in the Schepersnek area.

However, it has since been confirmed that the fire had started at Blood River Poort, three or four farms west of Dr Moll’s farm.

“The fire ran across several farms before it got to me. In such wind, it was already burning out of control when it reached me,” said Dr Moll, who lost 4 500 hectares of grazing land and suffered millions of rands of loss after his plantations were ravaged by the fire.

“Fortunately, no one on my farm was seriously hurt, although one labourer had to be treated for smoke inhalation. We are still checking our cattle and tallying up the loss of livestock. We will now have to make emergency sales on the cattle due to the loss of grazing land. I would like to thank all the farmers and everybody who came out to help.”


A view of Vryheid engulfed in smoke from just outside of town.

Landbou’s hostel superintendent, Johan Pieters, said, “The school was well-protected by our good Lord and we managed to divert the fire around the buildings.”

Contrary to posts made on social media, the learners residing in the hostel were not evacuated last night. They remained at the school but were required to gather at a common congregation area as per the school’s emergency procedures.

“The buildings at the school are situated in such a way that there is ample space around them to protect the buildings from fire. I think that was our saving grace. We used as much water as we could to divert the flames away from the school but there was no way we were going to stop the fire. At the moment, we don’t have electricity because the poles carrying the cables burned down, but our children are safe and our livestock is safe, and its back  to work as normal today.  Some of our day scholars are not at school, but we are continuing with classes,” said Mr Pieters.

Landbou’s farm manager, Anton van der Schyff, who fought the fire hands on, described the effects of the blaze in one word, “disaster.”

“Yesterday, we were so busy fighting the fire there wasn’t any time for us to think about ourselves. This morning, everybody woke up coughing and feeling like you have somebody else’s eyes in your head and we realised what near escapes some us had while fighting the fire and how lucky we are to be unharmed. The wind was terribly strong and there was no way we could beat the fire, it just went through the fire breaks. All we could do was try and divert it. At Landbou today, there is no electricity and we are worried about where we are going to get food to feed our animals after the loss of grazing land. Luckily, we managed to save the buildings, but the farms that were burned out look like a barren desert,” he concluded.

In average wind speeds of 58km per hour it took fire-fighters more than nine hours to finally get the fire under control.

Residents who wish to donate household items, clothes and food for those who have been affected by the fire can drop the items off at the Lions Club house at Cecil Emmett. Contact Cindy Mossop on 082 877 4966 to make arrangements.

ALSO READ THE BREAKING STORY: Utter devastation as Scheepersnek fire ravages farm

UPDATES AVAILABLE: #VryheidFire: A silver lining in the ashes – ‘Vryheid staan saam’

#Vryheidfire believed to be arson

Estella Naicker

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