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Tourist lodge gutted down in Laikipia

04 November 2013, 22:30

Laikipia - A tourist lodge and a residential house belonging to an Italian investor in Kenya have been reduced to ashes, after a fierce fire razed Loisaba Wilderness ranch in Laikipia County.

The fire, which has been burning since Wednesday last week has also consumed about 25,000 acres of grass land and shrubs in the ranch.

It is believed that the wild fire has also burnt some reptiles in the 61,000 hectare land which is situated in the western section of Laikipia North constituency.

Ranch general manager Tom Silvester said they believed the inferno started at around 9am on Wednesday.

“I was in Nairobi and I was told that a fire had started at the ranch. We have not established the cause, although we suspect a herder dropped a cigarette butt in one corner of the farm,” said Silvester.

He said that efforts to extinguish the fire were rendered futile by strong winds that blew in the area and partly by dry vegetation.

“It was sunny and windy while the vegetation, which mainly comprises grass and shrubs, were dry due to the prolonged dry weather in the region, and this caused the fire to spread very fast beyond our control,” said Silvester.

The inferno started in the northern section of the farm, and spread towards south where the lodge, farmhouse, manager’s house and staff quarters are situated.

Workers and community members in Ewaso area helped control it from spreading towards the manager’s residence, staff quarters and cattle sheds which are a short distance away.

The manager said the fire has caused huge losses, primarily because of burning down of the tourist facility and the farm house.

The ranch specialises in tourism and cattle rearing. “We estimated the lodge to cost between Sh80 million to Sh100 million, while the farm house is worth about US$500,000 (about Sh42.5 million). We also lost huge tracts of grassland, which are very precious since we have 3,000 head of cattle, 800 sheep and goats and 70 camels, which all depend on the pastures,” said Silvester.

The fire has cost also jobs for some of some of the 200 ranch employees, especially those who work in the lodge. Lodge manager Jamie Gomersall said they are now moving their visitors to neighbouring lodges.

He noted that the exact amount lost was yet to be established and investigations were underway.The fire also came as a loss to the local community, who were allowed to graze their cattle in the ranch during dry spells.

By the time it started, the ranch was in agreement with the community to graze 1,000 head of cattle.

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