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Reduce Wildfire Risks This Overberg Grain Season

Grain Fires
Written by Mickey Mentz

The grain harvest season is underway in the Western Cape.

It’s a busy time for local farmers – who rise early and work until late to complete the harvest, but it’s also a time of greater risk, with fires sparked by harvesting and harvesting machinery always a concern.

Grain fires not only threaten livelihoods; given the speed at which they can burn during a windy, dry day, they also threaten lives, says Louise Wessels, Manager of the Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association (goFPA).

“Although landowners are well prepared, the probability and the intensity of grain fires require us all to be ready to respond.”

In order to help farmers reduce fire risks on their properties, the goFPA has compiled a few helpful actions for farmers and their staff to implement.

Should a fire start in grainlands, there’s a tried and tested wildfire defense strategy that guides fire-fighting efforts. It’s called LCES (pronounced Laces).

L: Lookouts: Have a lookout watch the fire move. This person communicates the fire’s movements clearly. Fire in grainlands moves fast, so make sure your lookout is safe.

C: Communication: Ensure all players are communicating clearly and calmly with each other, with the Incident Commander ultimately responsible for all calls.

E: Exit Routes: Grain fires can burn in several lines at the same time, trapping fire-fighters. So be aware of 2 escape routes at all times.

S: Safety Zones: Establish your safety zone, where all partners can retreat to during a fire. Ideally this should be ‘behind’ the grain fire, in an area that has already burned.


According to Louise, there’s a final tip to consider: “Because grain fires burn so fast, approach them from behind in the burnt area. Beware of being caught in front of a grain fire or driving through one.”

Good luck to all grain farmers during the harvest season. May it be a safe and successful harvest.



About the author

Mickey Mentz

I sometimes dance naked in the canola fields of Swellendam, but when I wake up, I'm at home in my Barrydale bed. As die nuutste toevoeging to the Bulletin span sien ek daarna uit om die omgewing en sy mense beter te leer ken.

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