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Firefighters share first-hand experience of battle with Cape Town fire

Members of Working on Fire battle the Cape Town mountain fire that broke out on Sunday. Picture: WOF/Limakatso Khalianyane

Members of Working on Fire battle the Cape Town mountain fire that broke out on Sunday. Picture: WOF/Limakatso Khalianyane

Published Apr 21, 2021


Cape Town - The mountain fire which ravaged Cape Town has finally been contained and immense appreciation has been shown to the men and women who braved the inferno and worked tirelessly since Sunday.

City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Jermaine Carelse on Wednesday announced the containment of the fire.

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“As we enter day four of the Rhodes Memorial incident, the fire has now been contained with only sporadic flare-ups in the Deer Park area, which pose no threat.

“The downscaling of resources started yesterday evening and only a few fire crews are currently monitoring the situation around the UCT, Philip Kgosana Drive and Deer Park areas,” he said.

Carelse said monitoring operations will continue throughout the week.

Luke Koeries, 21, from Ocean View, was among the brave men and women who contained the Cape Town mountain fire. Photo: supplied

African News Agency (ANA) spoke to two firefighters from the rescue teams who have been on the ground since the fire broke out.

Luke Koeries, 21, from Ocean View, has been a volunteer with the City of Cape Town’s Emergency Volunteer Services (EVS) since the age of 16.

Koeries said that, as with any fire, there was an adrenalin rush, and the need to contain the fire kicked in immediately.

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However, the raging fire also brought some sadness.

“Attending a fire, one never knows what to expect. It is always a new experience and it was extremely sad to see how people just had to leave their belongings and evacuate,” Koeries told ANA.

Luke Koeries works on the mountain fire, which was only contained after four days. Photo: supplied

He said the teamwork among crews trying to douse the flames was impeccable.

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Koeries, who is a volunteer, said he and his crew were stationed at the University of Cape Town (UCT) as the fire from the mountain spread to parts of the main campus.

However, as the blaze was spreading rapidly, they were moved as the fire jumped from the university to the M3 highway.

The fire jumped from the University of Cape Town to the M3 highway. Photo: supplied

Koeries urged youngsters to join the volunteer programme.

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“Once I was old enough (18) I did many courses. I would urge youngsters to get involved in this programme, get off the street. This not only gives you work experience, an opportunity to get certificates, but also an opportunity to build yourself a career,” he told ANA.

Crew leader for the False Bay team for Working on Fire, Tumelo Mokoatsi, 34, has been battling fires since 2011.

Working on Fire (WOF) is a government-funded job creation programme focusing on implementing integrated fire management in the country.

Mokoatsi and his crew of 19 hit the ground running when they received the call on Sunday, and only left the fire site on Tuesday.

Crew leader for the False Bay team for Working on Fire (WOF), Tumelo Mokoatsi, 34, said the terrain made the task difficult for firefighters. Photo: supplied

Speaking to ANA, Mokoatsi said it was not easy at all, and the terrain and vegetation made the job difficult for firefighters.

“The pine trees once burning gave off a lot of smoke. The strong winds also made it difficult. On the mountain the terrain is terrible and we have to go uphill. The more we go uphill the more we have to be extremely vigilant about loose rocks and falling pine trees so no one gets hurt,” he said.

Mokoatsi explained the extreme heat and said their main focus was ensuring everyone stayed hydrated.

He was pleased to announce that his crew had reported no injuries at all since their deployment to the scene.

“Before entering a fire we do a debriefing. We tell each other that we know what to do, we love our jobs and then we pray first because the Lord comes first and we pray for everyone to come back home safely after we have fulfilled our duties,” Mokoatsi told ANA.

Members of Working on Fire battle the Cape Town mountain fire. Photo: WOF/Limakatso Khalianyane

Provincial communications officer for WOF, Limakatso Khalianyane, said they were proud to have gone all out with resources to assist their partners, SANParks and the City of Cape Town, to suppress the fire.

She said WOF had 120 firefighters from six teams on the ground who worked different shifts, mostly dealing with dangerous flames under unpleasant weather conditions.

“We also had five aerial resources that water-bombed some of the most threatening blazes since Sunday. We are proud to have been able to save the remaining structures of UCT. Our chopper dropped 15 000 litres of water at UCT on Sunday, extinguishing blazes that had engulfed the library.

“We are committed to saving lives and protecting the environment through integrated fire management,” Khalianyane told ANA.

While damages are yet to be assessed, Capetonians have been flooding social media, thanking all rescue teams for a job well done.

African News Agency (ANA)