WATCH: Photographer rescues elderly couple, dazed man as Betty's Bay wildfire burns

2019-01-13 12:35
Photographer and filmmaker Justin Sullivan. (Supplied)

Photographer and filmmaker Justin Sullivan. (Supplied)

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Three Betty's Bay residents narrowly escaped injury – or worse – with the help of photographer and filmmaker Justin Sullivan on Friday as a roaring fire ravaged the Overstrand area.

The three were among scores of residents who had to evacuate the coastal town as smoke and flames threatened to engulf it.

Sullivan, currently making a documentary about wildfires, had arrived in Betty's Bay just after 14:00 on Friday afternoon when he spotted trouble.

He told News24 on Sunday that the smoke-filled streets caused extremely low visibility.

Through the thick smoke, Sullivan saw a man walking down the road and disappear.

He drove towards him, unable to travel faster than about 10km/h due to the low visibility.

'Extremely bad position'

Sullivan hooted at the man, but he could not hear him.

The man was in an "extremely bad position", as the fire was moving closer to him, and Sullivan reached him just as the flames began crossing the road to where he was.

Sullivan took the man to emergency workers stationed at a roadblock on the edge of town.

Returning to Betty's Bay, Sullivan then spotted an elderly couple huddled together on the side of the road, next to their burning car.

They were trying to get into the vehicle to leave town, but it caught alight. He also took them to safety.

Sullivan said he was just one of many people – including emergency services workers and ordinary people – who helped others that day.

"I'm very impressed that no one was killed," he said, adding that the fire came down the mountain and entered the town so quickly that many people had no time to prepare to evacuate.

Currently no immediate danger

At least 31 houses have been destroyed in the fires which savaged the Overstrand areas of Franskraal, Betty's Bay and Karwyderskraal. The fires started when a man allegedly set off flares about two weeks ago.

Shelton April,34, is expected back in the Caledon Magistrate's Court on Monday.

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 previously.

Meanwhile, while some fires in the Overstrand area were still active early on Sunday morning, these were largely reported to be in inaccessible places such as high up on the Onrus mountain, and there appeared to have been no immediate danger to people or property.

According to the joint operations centre for the fires, assistance was needed to keep the Hemel-en Aarde, Karwyderskraal and Franskraal roads and airspace open.

It is understood that firefighters were not only being delayed in getting to hotspots by traffic congestion, but also faced poor visibility from the smoke, and problems with people flying drones.

WATCH: Photographer Justin Sullivan rescues three people from the blaze

Read more on:    cape town  |  fires  |  wildfires
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