epa04645161 Firefighters take a break on Chapmans Peak as a fire continues to burn through indigeneous Fynbos vegetation on the World Heritage site Table Mountain National Park three days after it started in Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa 03 March 2015. A fire fanned by gale force south easterly winds has destroyed over 3000 hectares of land and some homes around the Cape Town south peninsula from Muizenberg to Hout Bay. Residents in some areas were forced to evacuate. Rescue personel continue to battle the blaze. EPA/NIC BOTHMA
epa04645161 Firefighters take a break on Chapmans Peak as a fire continues to burn through indigeneous Fynbos vegetation on the World Heritage site Table Mountain National Park three days after it started in Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa 03 March 2015. A fire fanned by gale force south easterly winds has destroyed over 3000 hectares of land and some homes around the Cape Town south peninsula from Muizenberg to Hout Bay. Residents in some areas were forced to evacuate. Rescue personel continue to battle the blaze. EPA/NIC BOTHMA

Bill to extinguish fires reaches R3m

By Anél Lewis And Kieran Legg Time of article published Mar 4, 2015

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Cape Town - The devastating fires ravaging mountains in the South Peninsula have cost the City of Cape Town at least R3 million – and counting.

“This is costing us an enormous amount of money,” said Richard Bosman, executive director of safety and security, who was speaking at Lakeside Fire Station on Tuesday.

The fire station is being used as a central command centre for the firefighting operation. “And this will go on for another two days at least.”

Bosman said it cost R45 000 an hour to have two helicopters in the air. They are based at Newlands and the city pays a fixed monthly cost to lease them during peak fire season, as well as paying for flying time an hour.

Since Sunday, the sound of choppers making water drops has provided a noisy soundtrack to the Herculean firefighting efforts playing out at the various flare-ups across the peninsula.

Meanwhile, overtime costs are climbing as hundreds of firefighters have been working extended shifts to contain the fires.

About 3 000 hectares of land, including fynbos, have been affected by the fire whichis currently raging on three fronts: above Tokai, Hout Bay and Noordhoek.

But SANParks spokeswoman Tarcia Hendricks said later that the devastation of vegetation had extended to about 4 000 hectares.

She said that the various teams had logged at least 198 flying hours, and dropped about 2 million litres of water over affected areas. The flying hour cost thus far was about R2.4 million. Hendricks said four helicopters, two water bombers and one spotter plane had been in the area since Sunday.

Fire chief Ian Schnetler confirmed that the city’s resources had been stretched to the limit.

The city’s Fire and Rescue Service, disaster risk management and environmental resource management staff and volunteers have been working with Table Mountain National Park, Working On Fire and the Volunteer Wildfire Services to battle blazes in five key priority areas: Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak, Clovelly, Lakeside and the Tokai Plantation.

An additional 250 Working on Fire firefighters have been brought in from other provinces to join the teams on the ground.

SANParks confirmed on Tuesday that the fire that started near Boyes Drive above Muizenberg had spread and destroyed all vegetation in the Silvermine section of Table Mountain National Park.

The human cost of the blaze has been minimal, with one firefighter admitted to hospital on Monday after he burned his hands and face. Fifty-two frail-care residents of the Noordhoek Manor Retirement Village were treated for smoke inhalation.

Only five houses along Silvermine Road were damaged.

The city has set up three mass care centres for those who have been displaced by the fires: at the Dutch Reformed Church in Kommetjie Road, Fish Hoek; at the Dutch Reformed campsite in Noordhoek; and at the Fish Hoek Community Hall.

Chapman’s Peak Drive remained closed to traffic as well as Boyes Drive between the golf course and Old Boyes Drive.

Meanwhile, Lakeside Fire Station has been inundated with donations of water, food, energy drinks and even protective buffs for the firemen.

Cape Argus

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