AT least 13 houses were destroyed at St Francis Bay on Tuesday when a runaway fire ripped through Harbour Road and surrounds.While Kouga fire-fighters were quick to respond, a strong wind relentlessly drove the fire among the houses towards Assissi Drive. “We issued the evacuation alert at about 1pm and set up the St Francis municipal office as the meeting point, “ Kouga Mayor Horatio Hendricks said.Kouga’s Fire Department was out in full force that afternoon as the flames threatened to engulf one property after the next. Assistance was also provided by the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and the Sarah Baartman District Municipality. “We are also very grateful to the St Francis Disaster Volunteer Group, who worked tirelessly to help fire-fighting efforts run smoothly,” Hendricks said. “St Francis Bay has always been renowned for its community spirit and we saw it again this week.”By 4pm the fire had been contained, but fire teams remained on the ground and on high alert as there was concern that the wind could cause flare-ups. “There were some flare-ups overnight, but our teams on the ground were able to contain and extinguish them quickly,” he said. Mopping up took place throughout the night and continued the next morning. The local police also patrolled the area to prevent looting. “We are still busy with the assessment, but early estimates are that at least 13 houses burnt down and a further two were partially destroyed.”He said the cause of the fire was not yet known. Two fire-fighters were treated for smoke inhalation. “Our deepest sympathy goes out to those who lost their homes and belongings in the fire,” Hendricks said. “The municipality will be working closely with the St Francis Volunteer Group to assess the needs of those affected, so that we can assist them in any way we can.”He cautioned the public to stay away from the burnt structures as they are very unstable.