Horses, pets safely evacuated from Somerset West fires

2017-01-04 15:11
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MYNEWS24 GALLERY: Somerset-West Fire

A runaway veld fire has been raging near Somerset-West and Sir Lowry's Pass since Tuesday, destroying several homes and property.

Cape Town - A Somerset West horse riding centre owner has praised the quick thinking and generosity of the community of animal lovers who got together to evacuate horses and animals from encroaching flames on Tuesday night.

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"We basically helped each other evacuate yesterday," said Suzelle Brits, of Journey's End Horseback Rides, on Wednesday.

Brits said people had called to volunteer, or simply arrived, and they all moved in a line on foot, taking 18 horses to the safety of nearby Broadlands Equestrian Centre. A call was also made for horse boxes, and two animals were moved like that.

This was after an urgent call to evacuate animals was issued on Tuesday night, when high winds fanned the flames around farms on the Helderberg mountain range and near Sir Lowry's Pass.

"Most of the horses were 'oh, okay, we're going to walk', but some were a little bit nervous," said Brits, expressing relief that all of the horses were safe after the panic of Tuesday.

She said the horses were not just there for tourists to ride, but also to help people recover from depression or trauma.

'Lovely to see the humanity still in people'

She plans to study equi-therapy this year, but in the meantime, is pleased that the one blind child and the autistic children who enjoy horse riding will be able to keep up their visits after their farm and horses were spared.

Brendan Siléne, of Broadlands, said they were happy to help people whose properties were at risk, and that, by the end of the evening, they had made space for an extra 28 horses, in addition to the 27 that were already there.

The centre focuses on show jumping and equestrian cross-country events.

"We started by separating the mares and geldings, and managed to allocate individual sections to the different stable yards coming in with their horses," said Siléne.

"It's lovely to see the humanity still in people that want to help out," he said.

By the end of the evening, he and his wife Inga had settled all the horses and told the worried owners to go back to their homes to continue monitoring the fire, promising to keep watch over the horses.

'Community responded admirably'

One News24 reader wrote to say that, by 18:00, the fire had moved very close to Sir Lowry's Pass village, close to Knorhoek, and that the smoke was overwhelming.

"We made the call to evacuate all the horses, including our own. Roads were already closed by police, so we had to take dirt roads. The community responded admirably by bringing horse boxes to help load the animals," she said.

She added that some horses were also taken to Firlands, Lourensford and Vergelegen.

Meanwhile, vets in the area were also kept busy, said Dr Ingrid de Wet, at the Country Animal Clinic.

They had five furry evacuees in their care - three dogs and two cats who were brought in by their worried owners.

"They are all comfortable and calm," she said.

City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue spokesperson Theo Lane said earlier that no people had been injured.

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