2 000 fight Cape fires

2015-03-04 22:30
Fire fighters battle a fire near Hout Bay. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP)

Fire fighters battle a fire near Hout Bay. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP)

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Cape Town - More than 2 000 people are helping to quell the fire in Muizenberg that broke out over the weekend, the environmental affairs department said on Wednesday.

This figure included 150 members of the department's Working on Fire (WoF) programme, department spokesperson Zolile Nqayi said in a statement.

Fifty more people from Volunteer Wildfires Services and 250 WoF firefighters had been dispatched from other provinces to join the effort.

A total of 26 aircraft had been in the air since Sunday, Nqayi said.

"Eleven helicopters, six fixed-wing bombers, and nine spotters which are based in Tulbagh, Porterville, Donkerhoek, Stellenbosch, Bredasdorp, Stilbaai, Newlands, Plettenberg Bay and Knysna, have been deployed to fight these 11 fires."

The 198 flying hours already flown cost an estimated R2.4m.

About two million litres of water had been dumped on the fire in about 2 000 water drops.

The helicopters used to water-bomb the flames have had to stand down because of the smoke and weather, city of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said in a statement.

Another fire broke out inside the Cape Point Nature Reserve on Wednesday, he said. A total of 13 properties were affected.

"Three of the properties have been completely destroyed, two in Constantia and one in Noordhoek.

Boyes Drive and Chapman's Peak Drive remained closed to traffic.

Drizzle doesn't do much

Earlier, the city's disaster risk management centre said the rain in Cape Town was helping.

"If it rains hard, it is a bonus for us, but the drizzle doesn't really do much. There is also very little wind in the area," spokesperson Charlotte Powell said.

"When it rains, visibility is a problem for the helicopters so we will have to withdraw our aerial support. The choppers have been water-bombing certain areas."

She said the rain was falling mostly in the Hout Bay area.

A total of 500 people had been evacuated since the fires began on Sunday.

Several agencies were fighting the fire in the South Peninsula. Efforts were focused on Lower Constantia Nek, upper Tokai, Clovelly, Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay, Hout Bay, and Noordhoek, Smith said earlier.

He said there had been conflicting reports about the number of properties damaged. The city's fire and rescue service would go to where damage was reported to clarify the numbers.

Smith thanked those who had been providing food and drink to firefighters.


"However, we have been overrun with donations and I would therefore kindly request that the public refrain from making further donations. We will communicate any further needs as they occur," he said.

Those living in "low-lying areas" and not affected by the approaching fires were asked to use water sparingly. This would ensure emergency teams had enough water to use from reservoirs.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape community safety department said it evacuated staff and students at the Chrysalis Academy on Tuesday around 19:00 as the fire spread towards Tokai.

The fire started on Sunday, but was contained and started again just after 02:00 on Monday in Muizenberg above Boyes Drive. It was fanned by strong winds.

It spread to Ou Kaapse Weg, Chapman's Peak, Hout Bay, and Tokai.

One city firefighter sustained burn wounds while 52 frail-care residents from the Noordhoek retirement village were treated for smoke inhalation.

Read more on:    wof  |  vws  |  cape town  |  fires

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