Somerset West taking stock after devastating fire

2011-04-17 22:59
Cape Town - Blackened walls of fire-destroyed luxury homes and charred stubble where fynbos used to be.

This bore testimony on Sunday to the fire which raged at the foot of and along the Helderberg Mountains at Somerset West over the weekend.

The veld fire, which started near the Helderberg Nature Reserve at about 08:00 on Saturday, was fanned by a 60km/h southeasterly wind. 

It was only brought under control on Sunday.

However, the fire has since moved towards Stellenbosch.

Eleven properties, most of them houses, were razed or damaged. The Straighway Head Country Hotel, a four-star establishment, was also destroyed.

Just two units were left standing.

The operator of the hotel, Gary Pinchen, told News24 all he could save was the office computer.

He also managed to close the gas valves and switch off the power before the flames engulfed the hotel at about 09:00.

No braai fire

Commenting on News24, a Somerset West resident who stays near the hotel, commended the emergency services.

"It was not a little Sunday braai that got out of control.

"... The Cape Town emergency services were working 100% at all times and through their actions saved 100's of houses and a big disaster.

"There isn't a single fault or inefficiency you can blame them for and Joe public was supporting them through the night, bringing food and refreshment," said the user.

"Thank You Cape Town Mega City and citizens of Somerset West/Cape Town, for without you I would have been homeless... anywhere else in SA with compliments of the otherwise national service delivery, aka lack thereof!!"

Huge pall of smoke

Thirty homes in the nature reserve were evacuated.

The Helderberg College also had to be evacuated when huge flames bore down on the campus buildings.

Firefighters managed to put out the flames in time.

While a huge cloud of smoke hung over Somerset West on Saturday, residents of Helderberg Estate prepared for the worst.

Residents of Hillcrest Street, which borders on the nature reserve, started dousing the flames with hose pipes as the flames crept nearer, reports Michelle van der Spuy.

A resident, Nicholas Davies, says all he could do is pray for rain.

Panicking residents could be seen loading pets, mattresses, prams and washing baskets into their vehicles.

Others stood watching the advancing flames with tears in their eyes and hands over their mouths.

Off-duty firemen called

Five helicopters and more than 200 firefighters from Cape Town, Working on Fire, the nature reserve and fire stations from surrounding areas fought the runaway fire.

Off-duty firemen were also called in to help.

Residents of Somerset West also contributed to the effort - making more than a 1 000 sandwiches for the "champions" and "heroes".
 
On Sunday, bread, water cans and bottled water could be seen at the Parel Vallei High School, which also doubled as command centre for the whole emergency operation.

Twenty fire tendons and other rescue and emergency services vehicles stood at the entrance to the school.

Exhausted men and women who battled the flames throughout the night, were having a well-deserved break and meal.

On Sunday, about 100 firefighters and two helicopters, as well as a plane, were monitoring the fire.

The head of operations, Danzel Ramedies, could not say how big the area was which the fire had destroyed.

He didn't want to say what had caused the fire. 

Residents earlier said the fire started as a long line of flames near the nature reserve, suggesting it was some sort of planned fire.

No one was injured in the fire.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos

Eyewitness account on the net: Storm chasing

Read more on:    cape town  |  fires
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
12 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Beauty
 

This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!

Find out who and what South Africans were most curious about in 2014!

 
 

I love summer.24

This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem
The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.