Cape Town - City of Cape Town and SANParks authorities have reason to suspect recent fires reported on the city’s mountains are “malicious” acts of arson.
City firefighters worked tirelessly to put out fires near Steenbras Dam’s water treatment plant in Gordon’s Bay and in Slangkop last Thursday.
This was followed by another fire that was reported near Pinehaven, on the peak of Redhill Road in Simon’s Town, while aerial firefighting and ground crews continued throughout the day and into the night to contain the blaze.
According to Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith, crews spotted a suspicious vehicle fleeing the scene when they responded to the fire near Pinehaven.
“Crews responding to the fire line became suspicious of a vehicle hurriedly leaving the area upon the arrival of the first fire engine.
“With the fire dangerously close to the water treatment works of the Kleinplaas reservoir, teams battled throughout the night, and additional aerial support was requested at first light,” Smith said.
Officials assessed the damage to the water supply infrastructure network after containing the blaze and protecting the water treatment facility.
“In both instances affecting the City of Cape Town’s water supply network, the City must condemn such devious attempts to disrupt vital aspects of service delivery.
“Damage to critical infrastructure can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years for those found damaging such vital aspects of the City’s water supply network,” Smith said.
The City is now offering a reward for information that will lead to the arrest of any person responsible for the fire that threatened either of the Steenbras or Kleinvlei water treatment facilities.
The City’s advanced business intelligence system (EPIC), which co-ordinates all resources, incidents, response and deployment, identified a startling abnormality over the last 24 hours.
Of a reported 282 incidents of vegetation, grass or rubbish that have been set alight across the municipality, some may be attributed to negligence, such as the result of burning copper cabling.
Municipalities like Mossel Bay and Overstrand had a combined seven incidents believed to have been caused by persons residing within the bush but also related to illegal poaching activities.
Smith added: “While the City of Cape Town has a population five times of each of these municipalities, the ratio comparison on its own still doesn’t add up.”
SANParks has also now recorded an unprecedented level of fires within the park in recent times and has called on Enviro Wildfire Services to investigate these incidents.
From January 1 to January 18, Table Mountain National Parks (TMNP) recorded a notable increase in fire incidents, responding to a total of 22 fires.
However, a concerning pattern has emerged with the majority of recent fires occurring in the southern section of the TMNP, Kalk Bay, Ocean View and Redhill areas, as well as in the north of the park, in the Signal Hill and Pipe Track areas.
SANParks spokesperson Lauren Howard-Clayton said fires in these areas can pose a significant risk to communities living adjacent to the park, particularly with the hot temperatures and strong wind conditions currently being experienced.
“A concerning trend in the cause of these fires has surfaced with the majority attributed to deliberate malicious intent.
“Following investigations into the fires by Enviro Wildfire Pty Ltd – Western Cape, it is suspected that the three major fires were started with malicious intent,” she said.
Howard-Clayton said that dedicated crews, supported by NCC Wildfires and VWS, are on standby throughout the season.
“Efforts are under way to increase patrols in the south, where many fires have occurred.”
Anyone with information, or who observes suspicious activity within the TMNP or any of the City’s facilities, should report it to the PECC on 021 480 7700.