'It was like Dante's Inferno,' says relieved resident as Cape Town fire calms

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Firefighters keep a close eye on the Lions' Head fire. (Jenni Evans, News24 via Twitter)
Firefighters keep a close eye on the Lions' Head fire. (Jenni Evans, News24 via Twitter)

Cape Town's firefighters were praised for their hard work as they put out a fire during a night of fear for residents living near Signal Hill and Lion's Head. 

"I cannot stress enough how incredible they were," said Spencer Jay, a retired advertising specialist from London. 

Standing outside his flat on Quarry Hill Road, near where the fire is suspected to have started, he said the alarm was raised for residents after they smelt smoke and then spotted flames. 

"It was a terrible sound. The wind was howling, the klaxon was sounding and the flames were licking the edges of the firebreak," said Jay. 

"It was like Dante's Inferno," he said, referring to Italian writer Dante Alighieri's poem. 

"The air was thick with smoke and detritus. There was shit everywhere in the air, to be honest with you," he said letting down his guard for a moment.

Vehicles moved to safety

The residents gathered downstairs, while some wet surrounding bushes with the building's fire hose. 

The firefighting crew's leaders asked them to move their vehicles out of the garages underneath the flats as a precaution. 

"With thousands of litres of petrol in those cars, that was very good advice," said Jay. 

Residents gathered in a field further down Quarry Hill Road where they had moved their cars while firefighters brought the blaze under control.

The fire was stopped just before it hit the first line of houses and school buildings in the area.

"They are so incredible, these guys," he said of the fire crews still working in the heat on the steep slopes on Monday to dampen the area.

Road closed

Spencer said he and his wife, Sally, were inundated with offers of somewhere to sleep for the night, but they decided to brave it out. Eventually they and other residents were allowed to re-enter their homes, but they couldn't sleep. 

"We drank countless cups of tea and coffee," he said. 

The famous kramat on the rump of Lion's Head was also protected, with flames getting as close as the resting benches, but not affecting the historic structure itself.

Fire trucks and spotters on Monday still dotted the area, while crews in heavy protective clothing heaved hoses over blackened earth.

However, the seriousness of the situation is lightened by a moment of mirth as one official atop Quarry Hill Road chirps to another firefighter, seemingly missing his mark.

"You're not watering your garden down there," he says. They chuckle.

Signal Hill Road remained closed on Monday as firefighters monitored the remaining fire lines and potential flare ups.


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