Cape farm worker dies of firefighting burn

2009-12-30 09:38


A farm worker has died of burns suffered while fighting a fire in

the Overberg, the region’s fire chief Reinard Geldenhuys said on


He said John Europa, 55, from the farm Moddervlei near Elim, was

driving a tractor on Sunday in firefighting operations.

“There was a sudden wind change, and the fire overran him,”

Geldenhuys said.

The badly burned Europa was evacuated by an Air Force Oryx

helicopter, which had been on firefighting duty in the area, to Bredasdorp’s


From there he was transferred to the intensive care unit at

Worcester’s Eben Donges Hospital, where he died on Monday afternoon.

Geldenhuys said the fire Europa had been fighting, in the Pearly

Beach/ Agulhas National Park area, was “to all intents” out, though spots were

still flaring up.

A blaze in the mountains at Greyton was under control, and being

fought by a Cape Nature helicopter and Overberg fire ground units.

A fire at Hermanus, which fell under the control of Overstrand

municipality, was out, but with flareups.

A helicopter and ground teams were also deployed there.

Manager of the Agulhas National Park Etienne Fourie said he

estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of the 21,000 hectare park had been


While regular fires were part of the natural cycle of fynbos, this

blaze had been abnormally hot, and there had been ecological damage.

The extent could be fully assessed only in spring, after the winter


He said the fire had been disastrous for creatures such as small

mammals, snakes and birds.

“Normally they take evasive action,” he said, “This was just a

raging inferno. Nothing stood.”

The fire had also destroyed several historic buildings in the park,

including a longhouse at Rietfontein that was over two centuries old.

Fourie said though there had in recent years been fires, both big

and small, in the park, this one was the most devastating in decades.

One advantage of it was that it had cleared large areas of alien

vegetation “so at least one can see what’s going on".

The fire started in the Buffelsjagbaai area on Thursday.

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