SANParks suspects arson in massive Cape Town wildfire, R10 000 reward offered

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A firefighter surveys the flames from a distance in the Vredehoek area of Cape Town on 19 April 2021.
A firefighter surveys the flames from a distance in the Vredehoek area of Cape Town on 19 April 2021.
PHOTO: Luke Daniel/Business Insider
  • A report into the recent devastating Table Mountain fire has been released.
  • The investigation found that the massive wildfire was started intentionally.
  • Rehabilitation efforts are still ongoing more than two months after the fire.

The massive wildfire in the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) in April was started intentionally, an investigation has uncovered.

SANParks probed the blaze that destroyed 600 hectares of land, including parts of UCT and Table Mountain, and revealed its findings to the media on Thursday.

Two separate investigations were conducted to determine the cause, liability and financial impact of the fire – one by UCT and the other by SANParks

In a report on the SANParks investigation, fire investigator Rob Erasmus said CCTV footage showed that a vehicle was parked close to the area concerned, just before the fire started.

Erasmus said:

We managed to study the CCTV footage in the area and determined that before the fire started, a vehicle was seen on the shoulder of the road, driving very slow and a few minutes later, the fire was started. We believe the fire was started by human intent.

He added that they were unable to release information about the vehicle.

The investigation also revealed that the firebreaks in the area around Devils Peak were in place and had been maintained before the fire season. 

The TMNP subscribes to the Cape Peninsula firebreak system.

"In this fire, windblown embers travelled long distances and caused new fires to start, which meant that firebreaks were not an effective means of preventing the fire from spreading. The longest distance travelled by a burning ember recorded on the day was over 350 m when it set a palm tree alight on Main Road in the Claremont area," the report read.

A R10 000 reward has been issued for any information about the blaze.

On Sunday, 18 April, the fire started in the vicinity of Rhodes Memorial.

Fanned by strong winds, it quickly spread across the mountain, engulfed the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant and Tea Garden, and spread to UCT's campus, destroying several historical buildings.

At least 11 buildings were damaged.

The blaze was contained after several days.

At the height of efforts to control it, more than 250 firefighters were deployed to the area and they received aerial support from at least four helicopters.

More to follow.

Correction: In the original version of this article it said the investigation also revealed that no fire breaks were put in place.This was not the case. The article has been changed to reflect this.


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