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Lourensford fire: Rain calms flames after intense flare-ups in Somerset West

The fire started spreading to the Helderberg Nature Reserve on Saturday night and firefighting efforts began once again. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

The fire started spreading to the Helderberg Nature Reserve on Saturday night and firefighting efforts began once again. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 13, 2022

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Cape Town – The Lourensford fire, which started on June 8, flared up again on Saturday on the mountain slopes above Somerset West after firefighting operations were scaled down on Friday.

The fire started spreading to the Helderberg Nature Reserve on Saturday night and firefighting efforts began once again.

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However, showers brought relief this morning when Stellenbosch Municipality said the fire had finally been brought under control.

The municipality thanked all those who had been battling the fire for five days.

Since Wednesday, more than 120 staff members from the City’s Fire and Rescue Service, Working on Fire (WOF), Cape Nature, Volunteer Wildland Services, Cape Winelands District Municipality’s (CWDM) fire services and Helderberg Nature Reserve were deployed to bring the blaze under control.

City Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said, “Firefighters battled valiantly for days to get the fires under control, dealing with multiple flare-ups, with the arrival of a cold front providing some much-needed relief.”

Carelse said the Lourensford incident command centre was being closed this morning. CWDM spokesperson Jo-Anne Otto said the teams worked throughout Saturday night and Sunday to try to control the fire.

Carelse said several homes in Silverboomkloof Road were gutted on Sunday and two firefighters were hospitalised. Several homeowners evacuated their homes in the Helderberg Nature Reserve and the Erinvale Golf Estate areas on Saturday.

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Western Cape WOF spokesperson Limakatso Khalianyane said the aerial resources, which were critical in calming the fire on Friday by water bombing hard-to-access areas, were unable to assist on Saturday and Sunday because of gale-force winds.

Norman McFarlane, Somerset West ward councillor and operations manager for Volunteer Wildfire Services Stellenbosch and Helderberg Firebases, said the fire in the Helderberg Nature Reserve was finally contained on Sunday.

“No structures in the reserve were destroyed, but in the burned area, some 280 hectares, a great deal of the boardwalk around the duck pond, many benches and, importantly, water bars on the trails, were destroyed. The rain expected later today could cause significant run-off, resulting in some erosion,” McFarlane said.

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McFarlane said the reserve would remain closed for the next month to give the biodiversity team an opportunity to assess damage to the trails, and determine what reinstatement measures were required.

Safety and Security mayoral committee (Mayco) member JP Smith said, “We commend the efforts of our firefighters who have battled for days, under very trying circumstances to bring the fires in Somerset West and Tableview under control. The wet weather that has set in has been a massive boost, and brought welcome relief.”

Smith said Disaster Risk Management Teams and related City services were on standby to manage any adverse effects of the cold fronts.

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“Thus far no major incidents have been reported, but we remind the public to always have the City’s public emergency communication number on speed-dial. That number is 021 480 7700 from a cellphone and 107 from a landline,” Smith said.

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Cape Argus

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