Six people died from burn wounds after fire broke out at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve near Heidelberg, the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said on Thursday.
The fire broke out on Monday, trapping grass cutters who were working in the nature reserve.
“Internal and external teams were activated to fight the fire. The reserve also activated evacuation for all personnel.
“Due to the strong winds, the fire had already crossed to many sections of the reserve towards the north east where grass harvesters were cutting grass,” the department said.
“When the reserve staff went around the reserve chasing the head of the fire, some harvesters were found struggling to escape the fire.
“Sadly on the rescue operation, one person died while the rest were taken to hospital. Yesterday [Wednesday], the number of fatalities grew to six.”
Gauteng’s MEC for Economic, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development Lebogang Maile sent condolences to families of the deceased.
“We are grieved by the news. Our hearts go out to the families of the affected, may they be comforted at these sad times. During this period, with strong winds, fire burns must be avoided,” said Maile.
“Only controlled firebreaks can be started with all control systems in place. It is very unfortunate that an uncontrolled fire found its way to the reserve and claimed lives.”