Friday, October 11, 2013

Wildfire in Zimbabwe

I was catching up with wildfire related news early today when I stumbled on a post in the international fire news forum about a wildfire in Zimbabwe, Africa leading me to a short article by the Associated Press posted by FoxNews on the Zimbabwe wildfires (dated Oct. 7, 2013). According to the article a 2.4 million acre wildfire (1 million hectares) killed 2 people in a remote section in the Zimbabwe bush east of Harare. If my conversion is correct, 2.4 million acres is about 3,750 sq. miles or according to a listing of U.S. States by size in square miles larger than the state of Delaware.

I spent two weeks in Malawi in the early summer of 2007, and wrote about my time there during and after my trip. Malawi is to the east of Zimbabwe and like Zimbabwe is landlocked. Anyway, in reading about this wildfire, I found myself thinking back to my time in Malawi. I am not writing this article to offer any insights or links to fighting wildfires in that area of Africa. Rather I write because two weeks in Malawi is a time that I will never forget.

Today, I am reminded of images of charred, burned out areas visible from the plane as we were descending to the international airport outside Lilongwe, Malawi. As our driver, Luzu, drove us from the airport to our lodging in Lilongwe I recall seeing areas of charred landscape along the road, some with tree stumps. As Luzu drove us around Malawi over the next two weeks, I would continue to notice charred landscapes from time to time. Sometime in my second week in Malawi I asked Luzu about these burned areas, why were they burned. He gave two reason, one was to clear areas for crops, and the other was to drive out rodents, which were later eaten.

By the way, about Luzu. I think of him often. We were in good hands. Nothing happened, the van was ok, we lost a rear bumper but that was it. No busted fuel line, no dragging tail pipe. We never ran out of gas, though it was a little dicey one day. We drove to a very remote area of Malawi not far from the Mozambique border on a rainy day. This was during the dry season when rain is sparse, and we got out of there but Luzu was a bit concerned about the rain. You see, during the rainy season the streams near the dirt road we were on in the rain will flood making those villages inaccessible by car. He thought he lost the keys to the van one day, but later found them. He took care of us.

Note: I corrected my faulty conversion of acres to sq. miles in an earlier version of this article. There are 640 acres in a square mile. 2,400,000 acres divided by 640 yields 3,750 sq. miles. I had over stated the sq.miles burned by a factor of 100. Opps. . .

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