Pilanesberg inferno destroys thousands of hectares
Rustenburg - Pilanesberg National Park has seen a catastrophic series of fires in recent weeks, which Platinum Weekly brought to the forefront last week. Initially, at total of 14,000 hectares were engulfed in flames in August and early September. Yet, the worst was still to come.
Saturday 16 September 2023 brought yet another blaze. This time, the flames consumed a staggering 33,000 hectares before it was tamed on Monday evening 18 September. Petra Rough, Rhenosterfontein/Zuurplaat cluster manager and a member of Rebel Fire Assist, recounts the tumultuous events: “We felt overwhelmed by Sunday evening. The wind was so unpredictable. Yet, come Monday, after the biting cold of the night, we saw a glimmer of hope”.
Swift assistance came from Working on Fire (WoF) from Potchefstroom, alongside support from The Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust and Copenhagen Zoo. “It wasn’t just about containing the fire,” Petra emphasised, “It was a battle to protect people, land, and the park’s infrastructure”.
The fight against the fire was multifaceted. While WoF tackled the eastern front, park units, lodges, and Rebel Fire Assist battled the northern line. Notably, Golden Era pitched in, supplying water to the trucks.
Yet, nature presented another challenge on Monday when a herd of elephants blocked the battle, demanding the team to first divert them safely before continuing their fire breaks.
Reflecting on the valiant effort, Petra noted, “Almost 100 individuals gave it their all.” But the aftermath is haunting. “Trees, ancient witnesses to time, have been reduced to ash. The very core of our ecosystem, from the mightiest animals to the smallest insects, has been disrupted.”
For Pilanesberg and its rich tapestry of life, recovery will be a long journey. For now, the resilient spirit of those who stood against the flames shines bright, reminding us of the deep connection between humans and nature. A solute to the brave volunteers!
Photo: The inferno, which destroyed thousands of hectares, was started by a braai.
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