How wattle saved millions of Rands

August 31, 2007

Safire MD Pierre Bekker is ready and willing to put practice to a theory that he believes will save the timber industry millions in fire damage.

The saviour? The common black wattle, or more precisely, plantations of the tree that has in places been usurped by gum and pine.

Citing the devastation at Paulpietersburg, Bekker said the damage would have been signifi cantly higher if there were no wattle plantations.

"The wattle slowed down the fi re and in places burnt itself out," he said.

In this respect, Bekker was full of praise for growers allied to the Central Timber Co-op at Paulpietersburg who effectively saved Safire millions in damages.

"There's no telling to what extent their wattle plantations helped us and our members," he said.

Bekker said unlike gum and pine plantations, wattle does not produce the kind of debris that tends to fuel fires, nor does it have the resin properties of gum and pine.

"The intensity of fires in a gum or pine plantation often forces a fire to crown out, an unlikely occurrence in a wattle plantation," he said.

He also pointed out that maturing wattle carries an underwriting premium of up to 50% less in view of its lower combustibility.

"I'm busy with a debriefing exercise and one of the recommendations is a plantation barrier of wattle. There is enough evidence to suggest that strategic plantings of wattle will retard a fire and even reduce the extent of damage," he said.

Published in July/August 2007

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