Cape Town - The cause of the wildfire that gutted part of the Rhodes Memorial restaurant and vegetation at UCT on Sunday is believed to be a vagrant fire, according to Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).
TMNP said that wildfire crews (NCC Wildfire) from the Newlands Firebase were dispatched immediately to the Rhodes Memorial fire when it was reported at 9am.
TMNP spokesperson Babalwa Dlangamandla said: “After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire. It should be noted that due to the extreme Fire Danger Index for today, which is Red with temperatures of 36 degrees noted and an extremely low relative humidity of under 10%, the fire spread rapidly in the direction of Rhodes Memorial.
“One of the major contributors to the rapid rate of spread was the very old Pine trees and their debris. The fire created its own wind that further increased the rate of spread.
“The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread.”
Working on Fire said they have dispatched 58 firefighters, four choppers, and a spotter to assist TMNP’s efforts to suppress the fire.
“Rhodes Memorial and some parts of Newlands were under extreme threats, and evacuations were under way.
“More Working on Fire remain on high alert and are ready to respond to the call to assist with suppressing the fire. Working on Fire choppers are taking turns waterbombing flames within the left flank, as thick smoke has engulfed the right flank,” the organisation said.
Western Cape GM Melany Duthie-Surtie has urged firefighters working in the area to remember the safety protocols that they have been trained in.
“The fire is bad. Please remember to always know where your escape route are, because the last thing we want is an injury or fatality. We want you to work hard and protect properties and lives,” she said.
“We are not working alone. We are working with the partners. We urge the community at large to be vigilant and safe at all time. They should follow closely the guidelines from the authorities who want to keep them safe,” said Duthie-Surtie.