When Yazeed and Janine Evans’ family noticed a cloud of smoke just a few hundred metres from their house in Devil’s Peak on the slopes of Table Mountain, they knew something was amiss.
They looked up towards the flames leaping up the mountainside and saw three figures silhouetted against the smoke. At first the family thought the people were firefighters – until they spotted a few sparks up the mountain which were allegedly being lit by the figures.
Calling their two German shepherds, Storm and Maximus, Yazeed decided to go up the mountain to investigate.
“The dogs ran ahead and, almost a kilometre from our house, located a man in the bushes next to one of the fires,” the couple recall of the fateful flames that consumed the mountain and destroyed several structures.
According to the couple – who prefer not to share too many details or release pictures of themselves – the dogs found the man near a popular hiking trail.
“They did not disturb him but waited for their humans to arrive,” the pair say.
“The dogs led us to the person they had located and at first the man tried to flee but was advised to stay where he was because the dogs would catch up to him.”
The Evans couple, with the assistance of their two smart pooches, made a citizen’s arrest.
The suspect was led down the mountain by neighbourhood security and, “flanked by Storm and Maximus for extra protection against unseen threats”.
Frederick Mhangazo (35) was facing arson charges that have now been changed to lighting or causing an open fire without proper authority, after he could not be linked to arson.
According to the Evans family, the dogs, which have grown up on the mountain trails of Devil’s Peak, are puppies of a police-dog mother and protection-dog father.
“We decided to get watchdogs in our home after experiencing a break-in in 2015. We got Storm and Maximus when they were still pups,” they say.
The sibling hounds, now five years old, have undergone intense training programmes to be competent guard dogs. “They are also incredibly confident dogs,” Yazeed says.
Storm, described as the alpha female and the oldest of the pair, is quite curious and often leads the pack, the Evanses say. Her brother is the “couch potato” but given the opportunity will transform into a gladiator.
While the family were warned about getting sibling dogs in case they didn’t work well together, Storm and Maximus have proven to be quite the opposite.
“They are inseparable,” Yazeed says. “They love to sleep on top of each other and enjoy the great outdoors.”
During their training, their closeness also raised concerns about how they would react during a crisis. “We were warned that because they were so inseparable that they would prioritise each other.”
But that hasn’t been the case. “When the fires started to pick up they remained quite close to us,” Yazeed says.
While the Evanses are incredibly proud of the work done by their dogs, they do warn other owners about putting their pets in dangerous situations without the necessary training.
“Storm and Maximus were able to apprehend the suspect because they had the training and skill. They can do what they do because they have learnt how to deal with certain situations.”