Club fears more fires
Two weeks after a fire destroyed 26 stables at the Grahamstown Riding Club along the Cradock road, the adjacent landfill site continues to smoulder. Residents and club officials reported smoke from 17 December.
Around 10am on Friday 23 December, dozens of horses were hurriedly evacuated when, in strong winds, a fire spread from that area to the Club’s premises.
The Club fears another blaze when hot, dry summer conditions return. Meanwhile, they are counting the costs.
“The electric fence is being rebuilt and we have a guard on the grounds every night to protect our grounds and other assets,” committee member Adrienne Plasket said this week.
“We hope to clear away the two burnt blocks of stables this week. There are nails and burnt planks everywhere, which can be a hazard to horses.
“We have been most fortunate in that, for the most part, subsequent to the big fire, the winds have been blowing east or south-easterly, carrying the toxic smoke and the fire danger away.”
Plasket, who oversees the club’s livery facility, said she had not seen any activity by the municipality to repair their own damaged perimeter fence around the dump or to use their grader to cover the stillburning rubbish with sand.
While the brick buildings at the stables were insured, the two wooden stables weren’t.
“We’re not a wealthy club – we’re a small community club with enough funds for maintenance and operations, not capital expenditure,” Plasket said. “We understand the challenges the municipality faces... but they have an obligation to the community and this should not have happened,” Plasket said.
“We hope to meet with the municipal manager and appropriate directorate heads to discuss a way forward.”
The fire occurred in warm, dry, windy conditions and afterwards Makana fire services manager William Welkom told Grocott’s Mail, “We tried to pre- vent the fire from getting to the stables but the wind worked against us.”
Of the continuous smouldering, he said, “We can get our vehicles into the area and have done so, but it is a very large area… It is a huge task.”
In response to questions regarding allegations made on social media of poor management of the situation at the dump site Director of Social Services Mandisi Planga said a full response would have to wait until key staff returned from leave. However, he said, “The burning down of the stables is regrettable.”
On 11 September 2015, Makana Municipality was issued with a high court order that included the requirement to develop and implement a proper management plan at the landfill site.
This followed a 9 March 2015 notice issued by The Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism for the municipality to comply with Section 31L of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema).