Fire management within forestry is an integral and very important tool. Uncontrolled fires have the ability to destroy thousands of hectares. The fires of 2007 which lasted for eight consecutive days caused the industry to lose more than 17 000ha of planted areas, which in turn caused economical havoc.
This is why the forestry industry practises controlled burning. Firebreaks around the stands of trees, or compartments, are burnt before and during the fire season. These breaks help to stop uncontrolled fires. Boundaries such as roads are also used to stop fires from spreading.
The burning of organic waste matter or fuel underneath planted trees is also practised. This stops an uncontrolled fire from feeding off the debris left by harvesting operations (cutting down of trees).
Burning of areas is usually done very early in the morning when there is no or little wind, or late at night for the same reason. The controlled fire is started by means of a drip torch, and a section of grass is lit. A fire control vehicle is always on standby – be it a truck with water – similar to a fire-engine, or a bakkie with a water tank at the back – called a ‘bakkie-sakkie’.
The official fire season starts on the 1st of June, and lasts until 31 October. This does not mean that there are not fires during the rest of the season, but these are the winter months when the air is dry, and all plants naturally die. The biggest threat is during the ‘windy’ season – July and August.