100 evacuated as fires wreak havoc

2012-01-30 09:00
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Field fire near Stanford

About 100 people were evacuated from their homes as runaway fires, fanned by strong winds, spread over mountains in the Bainskloof Pass near Wellington and Stanford.

Cape Town - About 100 people were evacuated from their homes as runaway fires, fanned by strong winds, spread over mountains in the Bainskloof Pass near Wellington and near Stanford at the weekend.

In the Slangkop Valley, near Bainskloof, farmworkers and their families were evacuated as a fire roared through the area, damaging two houses. Campers at Steenbok Park were also asked to leave.

“We have 15 vehicles and about 150 firefighters at the scene," Cape Winelands Municipality station commander Roysten Harris told the Cape Times on Monday.

Strong winds

"They have been trying to douse the fire throughout the night and continued today [Sunday], but the fire is spreading rapidly.”

He said the fire was approaching the Bainskloof Pass between Wellington and Ceres.

“The cause of the fire is still unknown. However, the area around the pass has been experiencing very strong winds,” Harris said.

Three helicopters failed to douse a fire on the Twee Heuwels mountain in the Slangkop Valley, near Worcester, on Saturday.

Working on Fire spokesperson Leanne Mckrill said three helicopters had gone to help fight the huge bush fire.

"There was a family who went hiking on the mountain and they became trapped. A helicopter was on hand and took them to safety,” Mckrill said.

Late on Sunday evening, about 40 men, women and children stood next to gravel roads, gasping as the fire approached.

Stanford fire


Meanwhile, a Stanford resident told how he had to evacuate his cottage while helicopters and fire engines roared in and around the town as firefighting teams fought against a massive bush and veld fire in the Kleinrivier Mountains, Die Burger reported on Monday.

The fire started on Saturday at about 11:00 in a bushy area in Thesselaarsdal after which a strong wind fanned it on over the Kleinrivier Mountains in the direction of Stanford.

Craig Templar of the farm Blue Moon said a red glow was seen on Saturday night over the edges of the mountain and the next moment there were flames covering the whole mountain.

"The fire moved extremely quickly but the fire department assured us they were watching the situation. This morning the cloud of smoke was so thick no one knew where it was burning."

The air was so badly polluted that cars had to switch on their headlights and a thick brown cloud of smoke greeted visitors to Stanford from outside Hermanus.

Templar’s neighbour, Russel Metcalf, had to evacuate his cottage in a hurry. Apart from the fire, there was also danger from bees in nearby beehives. When reporters visited the farm he and friends were hurriedly carrying furniture from the cottage and he didn’t want to comment.

Worried

Pierre Rossouw of the Motherly Moony art gallery said he was just glad no one had been hurt so far.

"But you don’t feel well if it comes so close to you physically. We are worried about our friends on farms. Nevertheless, veld fires aren’t always negative - I hope something good comes out of this one.”

Overstrand municipality fire chief Riaan Jacobs had been manning an operational centre on the Sir Robert Stanford estate outside the town since early on Sunday morning.

Firefighting teams were battling to save vineyards on the estate on Sunday afternoon.

Earlier traffic authorities monitored the R43 for a while and considered closing the road as the fire, which during the night had moved over the mountain, was spreading down over the slopes of the Kleinrivier Mountains.

“It is difficult to fight this fire next to the road. There are thick blue gum forests and pine plantations. There is also fynbos and old veld which is burning fiercely,” said Jacobs.

By late on Sunday night, the wind was blowing in a south-westerly direction and the flames were turning back towards Thesselaarsdal. The fire started burning again at the foot of the Kleinrivier Mountains and spread in the direction of Caledon. No people or buildings were at risk.

- Sapa and Die Burger

- Are you there and are you affected? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos.
Read more on:    cape town  |  fires
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