Somerset West fire destroys homes

2011-04-16 14:20

Cape Town - A fire near the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West has destroyed ten houses, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services said on Saturday.

Cape Town Fire Chief Ian Schnetler said the fire started around 08:00.

"I can confirm that there is a large bush fire near the Helderberg Nature Reserve. Property in the area is affected. We are receiving aerial assistance from helicopters but strong winds are hampering our efforts," Schnetler said

Spokesperson Theo Layne said the fire was spreading rapidly in a south easterly direction.

"There have been no reported fatalities or injuries so far but the fire is not yet under control," Layne said.

People are currently being evacuated from their homes as the fire spread close to property in the area.

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

  • braveinternetguy - 2011-04-16 15:00

    Do you know how they can figure out if it's likely to be arson? There are two particular NASA satellites in orbit around the Earth, namely AQUA and TERRA, both carrying the MODIS instrument. ( This instrument, simply put, detects fires. The two satellites pass over South Africa once every 6 - 12 hours. The data is then received at Hartbeeshoek, and fed to the MERAKA institute at the CSIR in Pretoria. You can play with the data at where you will be able to view the latest information about fires in South Africa. Now, getting back to how they know it is likely to be arson...there are top-notch scientists at the CSIR and SA Weather Bereau who study fire origination, patterns and propagation, using data such as that obtained from these satellites. They can pin-point the origin and intensity of fires within hours, and a few meters, of its start, and of course match that up with all sorts of other data, like weather, wind, vegetation type and density, and so on.

      braveinternetguy - 2011-04-16 15:09

      In fact, according to the AFIS website (, these fires are currently located at 18.865, -34.056 and burning at High Intensity

      tassia.nolan - 2011-04-16 18:37

      Thank you for this ....

  • theseventhziggurat - 2011-04-16 15:14

    I currently have a pretty good view of the whole area, and there are now 5 helicopters dropping water. Respect to these pilots, flying in crowded airspace through smoke with little visibility.

  • tassia.nolan - 2011-04-16 18:34

    What a disaster but ..... believe met government won't deal with this as a real "disaster" because it's not in Macassar, Nomzamo or Lwandle???

  • Mandy - 2011-04-16 21:42

    We drove around this afternoon and the devastation caused in a short period of time is astounding. Hats off to the Fire Services, Metro Police, SAPS, EMS and Volunteers. The precision and organisation of handling this fire is phenominal and the people out there are passionate about what they are doing and myself and my family thank them all for their efforts in keeping us safe. If people can get to the centre at Paarl Valley High School, please take bread, fruit, energy sweets, water and cooldrink for the people on the ground fighting the burning demon.

  • ngoni.chifamba - 2011-04-16 22:10

    Its terrible.Was drivin on the R102 stellenbosch and it didn't look good.

  • Francois - 2011-04-17 00:22

    Spoke to a guy on Saturday at 15h30 he is involved with a hiking club and he had a call from two of their members at the time - +- 09h20 this morning high up in Helderberg Nature reserve who called him and said they saw two guys starting the fire where Erinvale Estate joins up with the Helderberg Nature reserve. Well if it is true it is SAD. we live in Parelvalley Rd SW and three home higher up + the Straightway Head Hotel have been gutted.

      etemhoff - 2011-04-17 00:40


      Jeeva - 2011-04-17 02:27

      i just drove back from stellenbosch to somerset west (2AM 17/04), flames form from the top of the peak down to the lower farms like Erni Els etc and Lavur(Spelling?). I would say about 3/4 of the backside is engulfed in flames. Front (Helderberg college) side seems to have been controlled, still a lot of activity though, same roads cornered off since ~1 PM 16/04. The last burn on the Stellenbosch didn't come nearly so low down. Remember Somerset West side of the mountain the flames were going against the wind, so it was easier to fire bomb. The rear side is exactly the opposite. Its racing down wind. 1 PM, when it was raging up Spanish farm, I saw the owner of Helderzicht removing his collectable muscle cars from the garages and parked them in the urban areas lower down. Horses were also evacuated from the Special-needs farm down to Parel Vallei Highschool. Youtube "Helderberg Fire - 16 April 2011", I've uploaded some videos taken from my cellphone of the helicopters refuelling and fire-bombing.

      rbrown - 2011-05-04 15:07

      Hi Francois I read your comment. I am an attorney acting for NCC Enviromental services who are contracted to Erinvale. Can I speak to you about your comment? I received similar reports and am trying to track down the hikers who saw the fire being started. Can you call me on 0214644722. Regards Richard Brown

  • Derrick de Vries - 2011-04-17 08:32

    Apparently the fire was started as a result of controlled burns above Erinvale. It is not clear if it was Nature Conservation or Erinvale doing the burns in 60kmh winds, predicted days in advance!

      WouterKabout - 2011-04-17 12:58

      Also heard that is was controlled fires that got out of hand.

      joe - 2011-04-17 13:51

      If this is true, the persons who decided to conduct the "controlled" (??? !) burns should be held criminally liable.

      Paul - 2011-06-10 08:57

      this is not likely derric is known for posting false comments on News 24

  • SAtoStay - 2011-04-17 15:18

    I hope there will be a fund where one could donate relief money for the victims of this horrible fire.

  • Noel - 2011-04-17 17:10

    So sad to think of all the poor defenceless animals in the mountains.....terrified and not always able to escape the flames...arsonists should be burned at the stake!!!!

  • Nett - 2011-04-17 23:21


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