Controlled Burn

Kruger National Park | July 2019

During the winter months, the weather is particularly dry and windy from July to October. It is a time of anxiety for the Lowveld Kruger area because this is fire season! A fire can be highly destructive and even deadly, however it is one of the vital components of the veld, co-evolving with the savannah ecosystem over the millennia.

Singita’s Lebombo and Sweni lodges are situated in a relatively small part (33 000 acres) of the Kruger National Park (4,8+ million acres) which is a natural yet enclosed area, where fire has to be controlled and harnessed to prevent unnecessary damage, but will also bring on new growth. The grasslands on Singita Kruger National Park depend on fire for regeneration. During the month of July, a number of controlled burns have been undertaken in and around the concession.

There is no way we can stop fires other than cutting fire breaks and burning areas to contain runaway fires. The Kruger National Park regularly experiences accidental fires, most are caused by careless tourists throwing away lit cigarettes. Some fires are also produced naturally by lightning strikes. The trick, however, is to ensure that the fires that do occur are not too destructive, by setting low intensity, controlled burns from time to time. If this is not done, a build-up of biomass occurs, and this can lead to particularly hot fires, causing severe damage.

The controlled fires are called “cold burns” because they don’t have as much impact on the trees as uncontrolled hot fires do. This results in a fire that creeps along slowly, burning in patches and leaving the bush mostly unscathed. “Hot fires” are avoided as they are too intense and can cause significant destruction to trees, especially when this is combined with bark-stripping by elephants, which is common elephant feeding behaviour in the area.