Fire was 'like Judgement Day'
Ilse Krige, Die Burger
Cape Town - Seven helicopters roared through the mountains near Wellington on Tuesday as all available firefighters concentrated their efforts on saving farms from a fire that has been raging since Saturday morning.
The fire consumed all in its path, including several houses, wild animals that did not get away in time, and about 4 450 hectares of fynbos. Some residents had to flee their homes without their possessions.
National government regarded the situation serious enough to allow two Oryx air force helicopters to be flown in to help.
Monday night was “like Judgement Day”, said Hermie Visser, a firefighting chief, after they tried in vain to protect wooden houses in the Steenbokpark private camp site in Bainskloof from the flames.
The fire then turned and moved over another mountain, this time the Limietberg between Wellington and Tulbagh. This fire had started in the Slanghoek valley on Saturday and was supposedly under control. But then the fire flared up and spread to Bainskloof, where a house was destroyed.
On Monday the fire could be managed in the mountain but during the night the flames headed for Limietberg, said Visser.
Cape Winelands District Municipality (CWDM) firefighting chief Danie Wilds said by Tuesday night about 4 450 hectares of fynbos had been destroyed.
Two lines of fire were on Tuesday still being monitored by 40 firefighters from different teams.
“We won’t leave the area unguarded until we feel everything is safe,” assured Wilds.
On Tuesday two helicopters from Working on Fire and three contract helicopters from the district municipality were still on duty.
By 11:00 the air force gave permission for the use of the two Oryx helicopters.
The seven water carriers dealt the flames a powerful blow but deep in the mountains, the fire was still out of control.
The sound of helicopters in the air, at times up to four or five at the same time, was reminiscent of a war scene from the film Platoon. On the game farm, Bontebok Ridge, the blue wildebeest fled from the noise in a herd, unaware that the machines were probably responsible for saving their lives.
Working on Fire spokesperson Leanne McKrill said on Tuesday evening that the fire was still raging. Teams of firefighters had been deployed on both sides of the mountain at Bainskloof.
White smoke, charred mountains and the occasional flame were still apparent after the fire that raged in Bainskloof over the weekend, reported Richard Roberts.
The fire next to the R301 forced traffic officials to close the road. Outside Antoniesvlei, motorists were sent back to Wellington.
Some people had to leave their homes, animals were burnt to death and at Steenbokpark, only ash and burnt out tin sheets remained of 18 wooden houses.
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