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The scenes after the fires in the Post – Retief district.
Photo The scenes after the fires in the Post - Retief district.
The community of Post Retief became aware of a fire on the Katberg Outspan at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday, 25 August 2013.
It was at this early stage that the farm, Stone House, leased by Athol and Evan Sumner was threatened by the runaway fire. Livestock was removed from the De Waal’s Kloof Valley where Stone House lies on to safer ground.
An assessment was done by the local Fire Protection Officer, Barry James, resulting in 7 farmers and their staff being placed on standby for Monday morning, 7 a.m. Brad Emslie, Garry Pagel, Athol and Evan Sumner, Theunis Botha, Barry James, Richard Bennett, Nigel Brunette and their staff reported for fire fighting duty early on Monday morning. Monday, 26 August 2013, proved to be a ‘Day From Hell’ with winds gusting up to 136km/h (measured by Working on Fire helicopter pilot which had been grounded). Fire fighters could barely stand in the wind, with many risking their lives in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances. Garry Pagel, of Rietvlei, became surrounded by the massively raging fire in a ‘kranz’ and became engulfed in 5 metre high flames, fortunately only losing eye-lashes, eye-brows, scorched nose and sporting a slightly permed hair style. Only 12 hours prior to this had he and his family returned from a vocation on the Canary Islands.
The wind speed continued to escalate with the fire continuing to spread from the Outspan to the pine plantations of the Katberg Forests, communal former Ciskei grazing land, Waterside Farm, of Brad Emslie, as well as Stone House. 5 Attempted back burns proved fruitless while Norma James on 2 occasions saved the vehicles of Barry, Garry and Theunis when the rolling flames reburnt the already scorched veld. While all of this was happening Brad Emslie was either extinguishing the fire that continually threatened his property, from the Katberg Forest, or moving livestock. This situation continued through to Wednesday morning. The fire fighters/farmers withdrew at 5 p.m. The wild fire was now burning on a front of approximately 3,5km.
Having had no sleep on Sunday night, Athol and Evan Sumner and their staff continued the battle into Monday night to save sheep and cattle.
(Exactly 10 years ago they lost +400 pregnant ewes to fire at Stone House.) At 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning they began moving cattle and sheep from the small house paddocks, down the main road of the valley and out of harms way. A flock of 350 sheep was cut off and were left for dead! Divine intervention saved this flock as well as the homestead, where even the garden and lawn burnt. The farm was completely razed.
On Tuesday morning the situation was once again assessed by F.P.O. members and a general emergency was called in the district. All farming activities were to stop and all farmers were to report to Waybank, farm of Brad Emslie. Radios were synchronised onto the emergency channel, where everybody could communicate. The mid-morning temperature was 25 degrees with extremely high winds. The response by fellow farmers was unbelievable !!!! Every single farmer answered the call to duty. The fire now had to be fought on 5 fronts, thus splitting the resources of man and machine. 5 Farmers were sent to the Thule/Outspan boundary where once again and finally Garry Pagel and Theunis Botha and their team put a back-burn in to control the rear end of the fire. Others served diligently in the De Waal’s Kloof valley, Waterside ridge, Waterside valley and Waybank mountain. When time ran out fire was only reported on the boundary of Rietvlei, of Garry Pagel, and at the back of the Katberg in the forests. There were just black burnt out mountains to be seen everywhere. The devastation to fencing was immense, however, no human lives had been lost – just 2 sheep.
The following morning, 28 August 2013, dawned with a 2 km fire line on the farm Rietvlei, burning across the face of the mountain from Waylands, of Carl Kritzinger, through Garry Pagel’s Rietvlei to Didima, of Mickey Liddell. Once again the farmers, their staff and vehicles began snaking their way up the Koonap River from the Winterberg region of the community almost like a military convoy! The vehicles were loaded to capacity: staff, spray-ers, water, spades, food and ‘vuvuzela’ blowers. Once again the fire was being fought on 3-4 fronts!
The rear of the fire was extinguished at Waylands as well as on a mountain track at Rietvlei, and after much difficulty at Didima. Human character and resilience was tested continuously hour after hour. A young farmer asked “Oom, hoe weet oom wanneer die vuur uit is?” Barry James’ reply was, “When you return after 2 days and there is no more smoke, then it is only finally out!”
Thursday, 29 August 2013, 3.30 a.m. Mickey Liddell reported that the fire was once again raging out of control on a 2 km front on his farm, Didima. Same procedure, different day, and everything was now becoming blurred. A back-burn was started close to the Didima boundary with Fariview, belonging to Richard Bennett. The fire was drawn along an internal farm road, up a ridge, down the mountain slopes and along a kloof where the 2 points were joined at 1.30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. 5 Days of absolute hell !!!!!! Snow fell Thursday evening and during Friday – between 6 – 14 mm of rain was measured in the district.
The farmers of Post Retief and Winterberg (Bosnek too) are to be congratulated for their willingness under ex-treme circumstances of adverse weather to turn out and support their fellow farmers. It was in this dire situation that this amazing bunch of livestock farmers came together and formed a formidable team. Thanks to the wives for their continued support.
Thanks have been expressed by Athol and Evan Sumner, Bradley and Norma Emslie , Garry Pagel, Carl Kritzinger and Mickey Liddell for all the help rendered at the fire. A greater catastrophe was averted through the co-operation of this dedicated community. WELL DONE to all !!!
Approximately 2 500 ha of grazing land was burnt, excluding the total destruction of the Katberg Plantations and former Ciskei grazing land. The fire ran for approximately 24 km. (Barry James)

Cobus de Klerk

Cobus de Klerk, president van die SA Sybokhaartelersgenootskap. Foto deur Lourens Schoeman.

Angora-ooie aborteer weens
Droogte in die Oos-Kaap
Deur Lourens Schoeman
MET DIE VELDWEIDING wat vinnig agteruitgaan in die Oos-Kaap het baie dragtige angora-ooie al aborteer, terwyl daar ook minder ooie dragtig is.
So sê die president van die SA Sybokhaartelersgenootskap, Cobus de Klerk, en volgens hom kan bokhaarproduksie ook erg geknou word as die reëns vir baie langer wegbly.
“Die sterk Augustus winde en die gebrek aan reën in die winter het die veld in die Oos-Kaap uitgedor, terwyl dinge verder kan vererger as boorgate ook begin opdroog.
“Tans is die kondisie van die bokkies en die skeersels nog goed in dele van die produksiegebied. Boere in veral die Pearston, Willowmore, Prins Albert en Jansenville het met skeertyd onlangs agtergekom dat baie ooie nie dragtig is nie, wat daarop dui dat die gehalte van die weiding aan die afneem is,” aldus De Klerk.
“Die nadeel daarvan is dat daar dan minder bokkies gebore word en dit ‘n impak maak teen die strewe om jou kudde so jonk as moontlik te hou, want daar kom nie genoeg klein bokkies aan om die kudde so uit te brei en aan te vul nie,” het hy bygevoeg.
Volgens De Klerk moet boere nou reeds begin kyk na lekke en byvoedings om die vee se kondisie sterk te hou, maar, sê hy, dis ‘n duur transaksie en dit lyk nie of die regering hulpgerig is nie.
“Lusern is tans duurder as mielies en die prys daarvan het in die afgelope jaar byna verdubbel. Die prys van lusern wissel tussen R2 300 en R2 500 per ton en dit kan boere gemiddeld minstens R30 000 per maand uit die sak jaag net om sy vee aan die lewe te hou.
“Die groot vraag is net wanneer begin jy voer, en wanneer hou jy op.
“Gelukkig was daar nog geen vrektes aangemeld weens die droogte nie, hoewel ‘n aantal bokke so twee weke gelede as gevolg van erge koue in die omgewing van Oudtshoorn gevrek het, iets wat ook daarop dui dat die gehalte van die weiding aan die kwyn is.
“Al wat ons kan doen is om met die oë na Bo gerig, te hoop op vinnige uitkoms anders gaan dit ‘n moeilike jaar vir die bokhaarboere wees,” aldus De Klerk.


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