Hotel destroyed in Somerset West fire

2011-04-17 17:52

Cape Town - The operator of a Somerset West hotel which burnt down on Saturday when a veld fire raged out of control, says all he could save was the office computer.

The Straightway Head Hotel was still smouldering on Sunday morning.

Gary Pinchen told News24 he also managed to close the gas valves and switch off the power before the flames engulfed the hotel at about 09:00.

The flames jumped from a thatched roof house next to the hotel. Only two units remain of the whole complex.

The fire spread so quickly that most of the extinguishers could not be used and still hang on the walls on their hooks...blackened and charred like the rest of the building. 

Here and there in the wrecked remains a picture still hangs on a wall.

Staff who lived on the property lost everything.

Residents of Somerset West say the fire started as a long line of flames near the Helderberg Nature Reserve, suggesting it was some sort of planned fire.

With the up to 60 km/h wind which was blowing at the time, it quickly spread out of control destroying 15 houses in addition to the Straightway, which was built in 1939.

Still burning

The fire was blown over the mountain and is threatening the Hidden Valley farm area on Sunday afternoon.

There are hot spots all over the mountain, but fortunately the wind has died down.

A group of 9 and 10 year old boys who were hiking in the kloof above the nature reserve on Saturday morning had the rather harrowing experience of being surrounded by flames and smoke at one stage.

During their escape two of the boys got lost and separated from the main group but fortunately managed to join them later.

The fire services escorted them off the mountain.

A mother of two of the boys later brought them to see the helicopters in action and told the story to bystanders. The incident could not be confirmed by the police.

Late on Saturday afternoon the fire raged so widely and was being fanned so violently by the high winds that emergency services asked off duty staff from all over the Peninsula and also from the district services to come in to help.

Three helicopters from Working on Fire with their spotter plane assisted units on the ground from the City of Cape Town, Boland District Fire and other services.

- Are you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos

  • Lucky9 - 2011-04-17 18:09

    surely the SAAF could have been called in to assist with there choppers, i know they are short of Pilots, but a extra 1 or 2 could have made a difference.....God help when we have a major emergency one day!!

      me - 2011-04-17 19:33

      "when we have a major emergency one day..." Sorry, we live a few meters down the road from Straightway Head, in the same Road, and trust me, it was not a little Sunday braai that got out of control... The Cape Town emergency services were working 100% at all times and through their actions saved 100's of houses and a big disaster. There isn't a single fault or inefficiency you can blame them for and Joe public was supporting them through the night, bringing food and refreshment... Thank You Cape Town Mega City and citizens of Somerset West/Cape Town, for without you I would have been homeless anywhere else in SA with compliments of the otherwise National service delivery, aka lack thereof!!

  • Johan - 2011-04-17 18:42

    They way this Cape Town Fire department works they must be some of the best firefighters in the world. These guys have been really good with this fire. Thanks for all your hard work guys.

      me - 2011-04-17 19:34

      I'll second that motion without hesitation!!!

      Allin - 2011-04-17 19:36

      I believe Working on Fire had a large team in there too.

  • PrecM - 2011-04-17 19:39

    Yes it is true, the children were from the adventure club (Beaumont Primary School) - they were having a picnic at the waterfall at the top when the fire started at the bottom. Some brave teachers and parents went back up to look for the missing boys.

  • Christel Olivier - 2011-04-17 20:07

    Dear anonymous idiot: Why do I get the feeling that somehow YOU know a bit MORE?

      Kat - 2011-04-17 21:35

      This anonymous idiot is clearly a very confused person and doesn't know where he belongs... Bra, wrap up your sorry for yourself pity party up and do something with your life. Stop blaming it on racism, when in fact you are the racist here.. booo-hooo! sit in die hoe eiers.

      Kat - 2011-04-17 21:36

      This anonymous idiot is clearly a very confused person and doesn't know where he belongs... Bra, wrap up your sorry for yourself pity party and do something with your life. Stop blaming it on racism, when in fact you are the racist here.. booo-hooo! sit in die hoek eiers.

  • kryses - 2011-04-17 20:11

    this does not bode well for the fairest cape. in natural circumstances these would be OK but unfortunately they are just a little too regular and the veld does not have time to recover. It will not be too long and the eco systems will change and the flora will transform.when is the cape going to follow california and australia and ban any form of open fire, including braai's [ i know that is harsh] but do you want the cape to look like springbok?

      antoinette.vanantwerpen - 2011-04-17 22:13

      If you read the comments on the first article about this fire,it is mentioned that it was a "controlled fire" started by the Nature Reserve,nothing to do with a along Cape Town Mountain roads and you will see many signs banning fires.

      antoinette.vanantwerpen - 2011-04-17 22:19 Read the comments to see that it was not an open fire or braai that started it

      kryses - 2011-04-18 04:49

      @antoinette--- I do believe that "any form of open fire" means exactly that! At no time did I suggest that it was a braai that started the fire. Any form also includes - controlled

  • Amanda - 2011-04-17 21:09

    a fire destroyed people's life's and all some of you can say is the referral to racist eras. GGGGRRRRR OMW people ... we are post apartheid ... almsot 20 years later ... move along ... get out of that mind set ... put yourself in the shoes of those helping and those who lost everything. gosh you are not very Godly and neighbourly ... you dont even sound like you care about your fellow humans! geesshh you people are so sad ...

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