Forestry and wildfire stalwart, Dr Neels de Ronde, passes on
Wildfire stalwart, mentor and friend, Dr Neels de Ronde, passed away on 26 January 2022. My nickname for him was Doc and I have known him for more than 30 years. Doc passed away in Oudsthoorn after suffering a heart attack.
Dr Cornelis de Ronde (Neels) was born on 2 August 1941. After receiving his Forestry diploma in the 1964, he spent several years in Forestry Management before specialising in forestry research. During this period of his career, he embarked on his speciality namely controlled burning under tree canopies. This later expanded to wildfires in general. He resigned from the Department of Forestry for a second time in 1996 to pursue a fulltime career a controlled fire consultant. He had several high court appearances as a specialist in wildfire spread modelling.
Dr De Ronde travelled widely in his capacity as wildfire behaviour specialist and did extensive work in Portugal, Spain and Italy. Keen to share his expertise he accepted a part-time lecturing post at Saasveld Forestry College tutoring specifically the Btech (Forestry) students.
During his travels abroad, he formed a strong friendship with Dr Johann Goldammer of University of Freiburg in Germany. Together they formed the Global Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC). Dr De Ronde served as the Regional Network Coordinator for the Sub-Sahara Regional Wildland Fire Network. With Dr Goldammer, they authored “Wildfire Investigation: Guidelines for practitioners” and as editors published “Wildland Fire Management Handbook for Sub-Sahara Africa”. Dr De Ronde also published numerous scientific papers during his career. Outside his specialty field he also published books on South African environmental matters, “Exploring the Southern Cape” being one such publication. In 2020 he published his first “E-book ‘Taming the wildfires on the Garden Route of South Africa’, of which Fire and Rescue International is currently publishing a chapter per magazine, as per special arrangement with Dr De Ronde.
Doc was an accomplished artist working mainly in water and oil paint on boards. His landscapes are very popular.At the time of his death; he was busy with a book on the classification of bird habitats.
Matriculated Transkei High School; Umtata South Africa 1959
Military service; Voortrekkerhoogte 1960
Forestry Diploma; Saasveld Forestry College 1962/63
MsC (Ecology) University of Natal 1988
PhD (Forestry) University of Stellenbosch 1992
Rest in Peace, Doc. You will be sorely missed by the South African forestry and wildfire fraternities. Our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Sources: The South African Forester by Prof Brian Bredenkamp, Spikes Joubert
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