VAALWATER – A raging veld fire at Vaalwater in the Waterberg District of Limpopo has claimed the life of a firefighter. Working on Fire manager, Sam Maepa, says 35-year-old Samuel Ramokgaba was trapped in the fire on Monday morning.
He was airlifted to Bela Bela hospital where he later died. The fire has also destroyed a lodge, vehicles, animals and farmlands.
Maepa addressed the media at the Incident Command Centre at Alma near Vaalwater. He said that firefighter Samuel Ramokgaba, who was airlifted to hospital, died of burn wounds. He and other firefighters were earlier trapped by the fire they were trying to contain.
His colleagues managed to escape. Ramokgaba was from Swartklip near Northam, and he is survived by two children and his mother. Maepa says Ramokgaba’s family will be given the necessary support.
He added, “In Northam in Limpopo, wild fire fighters (WOF) were deployed in a mountainous gorge area. During the deployment heavy winds change direction, pushing the fire towards the WOF teams. The wild fire fighters attempted to move out of the area, one WOF fighter Modikwe Samuel Ramokgaba from Swartklip village in in Northam fell and sustained serious burns. He was immediately airlifted to Bela Bela hospital for emergency treatment; however he succumbed to his injuries and died in hospital. He was 35 years old and survived by his mother and two children. Working on Fire program extends our thoughts, to his family and loved ones, we will be providing support to his family and his team.”
Maepa says they have called for re-enforcements to help extinguish the fires. He says 260 firefighters from Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng are fighting the fires.
“The numbers of fires are caused by lighting; the fire broke out in a mountainous terrain spreading quickly into other areas difficult for fire fighters to access. A total of 260 fire fighters, air support and fire trucks were deployed, a total of 15 teams are now in this area fighting these wild fires.”
Some farmers in the Watervaal farming area estimate that over 200 thousand hectares of farmland have been destroyed in the fire. There are still sporadic spots where fire is still flaring up. In the Alma area, extensive damage to peach and game farms is visible. Some farm workers were helping their employers to extinguish fires. A trail of destruction is evidence that the fire was severe.
Several animals, wild and domestic, have also perished.
This is what some farmers and businessmen had to say, “Well in this area, Tweestroom and Alma, there was more than 200 thousand hectares burnt. There were those who lost their vehicles and there is the whole chicken farm that burnt down. This morning, at four o’clock, there were people still fighting the fire.”
Working on Fire has requested two aircraft fire-bombers from Mpumalanga to assist them. This after the helicopter which was being used to douse the fires experienced technical problems.
The Waterberg municipal fire services have also been roped in. Damage to property is estimated at millions of rand.
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