Cape Town – Over 2 000 vegetation and structural fires have been responded to over the past 12 months.
Strong south-easterly winds in the province in summer, including high temperatures and dry vegetation, have a major impact on the speed at which fires spread.
The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services reported there had been 2 251 vegetation and structural fires last year and since the beginning of this year, compared to 2 114 incidents in 2019.
Fires recently broke out at Bakoven, Tokai, Masiphumelele, Kaaimansgat, Bainskloof, Algeria (Cederberg), Kluitjieskraal, Blaauwklippen and Jonkershoek.
Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said: “The downturn in fires is encouraging, but of course one fire is one fire too many. Also, taking into account the number of homes destroyed in Masiphumelele, and more recently, the Taiwan informal settlement in Khayelitsha, the impact and cost was massive to those who lost so much in these incidents.”
He said most fires involved an element of negligence or intent, including the careless discarding of a burning match or cigarette butt, broken glass left in direct sunlight in very hot conditions, and making a fire in an open space.
“The City does offer emergency shelter options to persons in need, but given the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of community halls is not an option currently. It is also worth noting that many people turn down the alternative shelter options as they prefer to remain close to the incident site, so as not to lose an opportunity to re-erect their structure,’ said Smith.
Members of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ Working on Fire (WoF) programme helped to control 16 fires.
The fires they attended to destroyed an estimated 52 000 hectares of vegetation and forests, with most of the devastation occurring the western region.
WoF Western Cape general manager Melany Duthie-Surtie said: “The unpredictable weather system causes heavy winds and high temperatures. The communities should play a role in reporting fires to the closest local fire stations.”