Firebreaks

Many conscientious smallholders will spend the long weekend in their fields making firebreaks.
Before we look at that though, why are winter grass fires bad? Contrary to the traditional view that an annual burning is good, numerous studies have shown that, in fact, the contrary is true.
~ Fires kill wildlife, in the form of rodents, termites, reptiles and insects that call your field home, and form an important part of your micro-environment;
~ Fires destroy the balance of biodiversity;
~ Fires change and destroy the balance and composition of your soil;
~ Fires cause air pollution;
~ Fires are destructive of the value of your field;
~ Fires are illegal.
A firebreak is a bare strip of land around your fields and around your property. The purpose of a firebreak is to stop a fire from spreading or at least to reduce its force. The law requires that a land occupier should create firebreaks around his property to prevent the spread of fire to and from his property to neighbouring land. Obviously you will also want to protect your house and any other buildings on your plot from veld fires.
There are different ways of doing this, for example, by grading, ploughing, disking, hoeing or burning. There are a number of articles on the S A Smallholder website about ploughing and burning firebreaks. Read them if you can’t decide which method you will use: http://gautengsmallholder.co.za/fq/#target6. There is also information on the width of firebreaks.
There are more advantages to clearing by mechanical means such as ploughing. However, if you choose to burn firebreaks you need to discuss the matter with your neighbour and decide on mutually acceptable dates on which to do it. You will burn firebreaks on same day as each other or at least be present or have a representative present. Make very sure that you have enough people present to prevent the fire from spreading.

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