Man accused of starting deadly Overberg fire remains in custody

2019-01-08 13:21
Betty's Bay (Credit: Willem Law)

Betty's Bay (Credit: Willem Law)

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The man accused of starting a devastating blaze that ripped through the Overstrand area in the Western Cape is expected to apply for bail next week.

Shelton April, 34, appeared in the Caledon Magistrate's Court on Monday, where the case was postponed for a week, a court official confirmed.

READ: Man accused of starting deadly Overstrand fire expected to appear in court

He faces a charge of contravening the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, for allegedly causing a fire, discarding a burning object in a place where it could start a fire, and acting in a manner likely to cause fire, Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said on Tuesday.

It is understood that a flare had been set off in Betty's Bay on New Year's Day, leading to a fire in the mountains.

Firefighters have been battling the blaze day and night for more than a week.

Fire spreads

The fire has burnt at least 7 000ha of land and most of the critically endangered vegetation that was burnt falls within the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. 

READ: Man arrested over devastating Betty's Bay, Pringle Bay fires

Cobie Rossouw, 59, died as a result of suspected smoke inhalation in Pringle Bay on Thursday, Netwerk24 reported.

It is not yet clear whether prosecutors will add a charge related to this death.

On Sunday, the fire spread to the upper slopes of the mountain at Kogel Bay. Holidaymakers at Kogel Bay Resort were evacuated as a precaution.

According to the Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association, the fire has been partially contained with two active fire lines and no further injuries or structure losses have been reported in the last day.

It said that firefighters prevented the spread of the blaze into the Steenbras Catchment Area. The fire burned around the City of Cape Town's Biodiversity Unit's offices and homes.

Reserve closed

CapeNature spokesperson Marietjie Engelbrecht confirmed that the Kogelberg Nature Reserve remained close.

According to Cape Nature, the Kogelberg Sandstone Fynbos contains many rare and endangered species, including the famous marsh rose.

While fynbos is dependent on appropriate fires for its survival, an increase in fire frequency causes its structure and composition to change and could lead to the potential loss of species.

The ideal fire frequency in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve complex is 17 years. The more than 7 000ha that burned varied from eight to 12 years old, it said.

The Boland Mountain complex also provides water for the Cape Metro area.

Intense and too frequent fires can destroy the litter and organic layers in the soil, resulting in run-off and less water entering the dams.

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