Forefront on a midlands farmers mind at the beginning of winter is the security of lives, land, and infrastructure. The frosts of winter have made the already dry grass, brittle and highly combustible, it has forced any remaining nutrients out of the stems and back into the roots.The highveld sourveldt lives up to its name and becomes very sour. The veld is ready to burn. Enter the humble fire break.
Fordoun Farm will join the other farmers, and soon the district will be ablaze as farmers burn firebreaks around their properties and strategic ones dissecting their land. For most runaway fires these breaks prove adequate in preventing massive losses but in strong winds and great heat a fire proves much more difficult to control. In these cases fire breaks can also be used as a line to fight the fire from in terms of doing a back burn (while trying to get a big fire under control a control burn is lit to move towards the oncoming fire, burning all fuel in its path) and they help protect property.
Fire breaks are normally burnt on a fence / tree / road line, 15-20 m wide. The best way to burn a break is to burn into the wind against a water line, sprayed down by your water tanker. General behaviour of fire must be heeded constantly eg a fire runs up hill, it can creep through kikuyu or scrub under a plantation and it can jump on tree tops, it does not need to run along the ground.
The FDI (Fire Danger Index) is usually sms’ed out to members of the Fire Association twice daily during FB season. Blue means insignificant wind speeds and low fire danger, while red is extremely dangerous conditions expected and any fire is likely to become out of control.
Serious notice to guests about fire. If you go walking in the veld in winter, always carry a box of matches or a lighter with you. If a veld fire is coming towards you and you cannot get out of its way, light the grass so that your new fire runs away from you. When it has burnt a few metres away, follow it and stand on the burnt grass. (Only do this if you are genuinely convinced that the original runaway fire is out of control and will reach you).
On a happy note … Fordoun have recently stocked their dams with various size trout. The dam on the farm is managed by Wildfly and used for their corporate challenge series but the dam in front of the hotel is kept strictly for guests. Please enquire at reception regarding the finer fishing details….