Picture: City and Fire Services/Supplied
Picture: City and Fire Services/Supplied

Gordon's Bay residents on edge as fire rages on both sides of R44

Time of article published Jan 7, 2019

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Cape Town – Thick smoke was hanging over the surrounding mountainous areas as well as Gordon's Bay, Somerset West and Paarl on Monday as firefighters battle unwaveringly to control the fire that started near Betty's Bay on New Year's Day and spread to the Kogel Bay Nature Reserve.

But Richard Bosman, director of the City's safety and security directorate, said fears that the raging fire would reach Gordon's Bay by Monday afternoon were unfounded, Netwerk24 reported.

The flames are, however, posing a threat to infrastructure at the Kogel Bay Nature Reserve. 

According to Bosman, the fire is raging on both sides of the R44, which has led to its closure. Provincial traffic boss Kenny Africa said the road would likely be closed for another day or two.

A total of 7 000 hectares has been affected by the fire and the Overstrand municipality has 120 firefighters on the scene, supported by staff from Working on Fire and Cape Nature.

Their task has been made more difficult by the inaccessible mountainous area as well as a strong wind that fuelled the flames. The goal is to prevent it from reaching plantations in the Steenbras area and agricultural land near Theewaterskloof.

Strong south-easterly wind and the rugged terrain of the mountains has hampered fire-fighting efforts and flames have claimed the life of one person.

Holidaymakers at the Houw Hoek Hotel in Grabouw had to be evacuated when the fire threatened the hotel property. At the weekend, campers at the Kogelbaai resort had to be evacuated.

“Maximum efforts are being put into this battle: 120 firefighters from OM, ODM, goFPA, WoF, NCC VWS CN CoC, supported SPCA, the SAPS, law enforcement, traffic. (There are) 14 firefighting vehicles, and three choppers,” the municipality said.

Betty’s Bay Fire Incident Commander Marlu Rust said: “Mop-up operations and fire suppression are the main objectives for (yesterday). As the fire is in the upper slopes above the Kogelberg Nature Reserve mountain, Working on Fire and NCC Environment crew were taken up via helicopter to work on those lines.

“At this stage the fire remains at 60% contained, with no infrastructures at risk. Currently there are 120 operational firefighters in a joint effort to contain the Betty’s Bay Fire which has been raging for the past seven days.”

Meanwhile, the man who allegedly started the fire appeared in court on Monday. The Caledon Magistrate’s Court postponed the case to next Monday for a bail application. 

The 34-year-old suspect allegedly shot a signal flare into the air which landed in fynbos behind his house on a mountain slope.

He is facing charges under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act for causing a fire, discarding a burning object in a place where it could start a fire and acting in a manner likely to cause a fire.

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