An 80-year-old man from Gokwe North died in an inferno while trying to put out a veld fire which he had started while working in his field.

Mr Michael Mazambuko of Marandu Village under Chief Chireya was working in the fields when he decided to burn weeds in preparation for the summer cropping season.

However, it is suspected the fire became uncontrollable and raged towards grazing land.

Mr Mazambuko tried to put out the fire but was overwhelmed and it engulfed him. He was subsequently burnt to death.

Environmental Management Agency (Ema) Midlands provincial spokesperson Mr Simon Musasiwa confirmed the incident which occurred on 14 September. Mr Musasiwa said the veld fire also destroyed at least five hectares of land.

“I can confirm that there was a veld fire in Ward Four under Chief Chireya, Gokwe North. The fire killed one person who was identified as Michael Mazambuko aged 80 of Marandu Village. It is suspected that he died as a result of suffocation and heat stroke while trying to put out the fire. It is alleged that on the day, Mazambuko left home around 8am to burn weeds and old stover at his field. At around 11am, his wife and son saw a thick cloud of smoke coming from the direction of the field where Mazambuko was working. His son rushed to check on him but when he got there he failed to locate Mazambuko. His body was later discovered at around 3pm a few metres from the field,” he said.

Mr Musasiwa said five hectares of land were also destroyed.

“The fire, which razed five hectares of grazing land, missed a neighbour’s homestead by a short distance. The matter was reported to police. Mr Mazambuko suffered burns on the legs, back and arms,” he said.

Mr Musasiwa appealed to members of the public to avoid starting open fires outside residential properties.

He said the risk of the fires spreading and causing veld fires was high during the fire season. The fire season started in July and ends in October. Mr Musasiwa said Midlands Province had lost more than 90 000 hectares to veld fires.

“The high temperatures prevailing in the country are also contributing to the veld fire risk thus farmers are encouraged to desist from starting fires outside their residential properties.”

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