500 hectares of Paarl fynbos destroyed in fire

2018-12-21 18:19
Paarl fire. (Supplied by Pieter Koen)

Paarl fire. (Supplied by Pieter Koen)

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At least 500 hectares of 15-year-old fynbos was lost in the fire that swept through part of Paarl mountain, the Drakenstein municipality said as operations were scaled down on Friday.

"The fact that water points are located nearby sped up mopping-up operations," the municipality said.

This was a relief to Paarl's fire and rescue operations head Dereck Peceur.

He was finishing off his Christmas shopping at Game in the winelands town on Thursday night, when he smelt something in the air. "I asked: 'What's burning?'" said Peceur, who has almost 30 years' service.

He could tell the type of fire from a quick whiff so he whipped out his radio and got in touch with the fire crew.

A bush fire was raging along the spine of the Paarl mountain range closest to the town.

By sundown, a massive team had scrambled to the difficult-to-reach site to put it out. 

Peceur explained that firefighting was not just about being beefy and pouring gallons of water on flames. 

READ: 'Someone must have prayed': Relief as Paarl blaze is brought under control by firefighters and locals

It's about understanding the science of fire and everybody on the team collaborating to put it out.

When the crews from the Cape Winelands fire departments and three helicopters descended on the town, with volunteers from the local farming network, they were ready to protect the homes and vineyards not far from the CBD. 

Through the efforts of the massive team, the damage was reduced to the fynbos and scrub at the top of the mountain.

Helicopter flying crewman Sbongiseni Mondlane said it had been hard work. 

"You have to be sharp sharp," said Mondlane as a pilot refuelled one of the three water-bombing helicopters near him. 

Originally from Mbombela in Mpumalanga, and temporarily based in Stellenbosch for "fire season", Mondlane said he would miss spending time with his children for Christmas. 

But at least he would be able to provide for them through the dangerous and careful work he does.

Meanwhile, business continued as usual in the town.

No injuries were reported. 

The police are investigating what caused the fire.

Read more on:    cape town  |  fire
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