Simon's Town residents flee raging fires

Published Jan 11, 2017


IN SCENES that resembled Hollywood disaster movies, rescue teams battled to contain the flames, as they were being fanned by a strong wind, moving closer and closer to residences in Simon's Town and surrounding areas.

Fire engines, ambulances, Disaster Risk management vehicles, police and traffic services sent pulses of red and blue flashing lights through the dense smoke, as they moved in and out of the danger areas, all assisting in attempting to bring the situation under control.

Along the Welcome Glen section of Glencairn around 4.30pm concerned residents were either helping to fight the flames, water their property boundaries or even pack precious belongings and leave the area.

Military and civilian helicopters ran a gauntlet over the trees and through the valleys dropping skips filled with water in an attempt to kill the huge walls of flames that were constantly erupting, as the fire found thick copses of vegetation or large trees.

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The speed at which the fire was moving nearly caught a local resident, who was using a branch to try to fight the flames and was unaware that the fire was surrounding him. A quick response by the fire crews alerted him in time.

The fires had already jumped the road from the open bush to the residential side and frantic efforts were being made to keep properties from catching fire.

The hillside between Dido Valley and Red Hill now resembles a strange alien landscape of smouldering trees and barren grey earth.

SPCA vehicles patrolled the area looking for either frightened domestic pets or animals from the mountains, who tried to escape the blaze.

In Simon’s Town, the fire seemed to be burning on two fronts: one in the Red Hill vicinity and another above the centre of the town, above Runciman Drive.

The flames moved close to many homes and many residents were seen assisting fire crews wherever possible, while others loaded vehicles with possessions and moved out of the area.

The huge fires, which began on the Ocean View side, continued to rage in the Simon’s Town, Glencairn and Red Hill areas yesterday. The City’s Fire and Rescue Service had to first battle a vegetation fire burning high up on the mountain slopes in Ocean View above Kommetjie Road.

The fire was inaccessible and spread from Ocean View across the mountain in the direction of Da Gama Park in Simon’s Town, but steps were taken to protect property and there was an evacuation of the Military Flats and some Glencairn residents.

Dozens of horses were moved from the stables to a place of safety, for safety reasons, said Safety and Security executive director Richard Bosman.

City firefighters were assisted by ground crews from Table Mountain National Parks (TMNP) and Volunteer Wildland Fires, Biodiversity and two helicopters were busy water-bombing the area.

By late last night there were no injuries reported, said Bosman, who added that the cause of the fire was unknown.

He said once the fire extinguishing has been done “we will turn our attention to determining the cause and whether anyone should be held accountable”.

“The fires are definitely a concern as we cannot rule out the possibility that they may have been set deliberately. Also, the fires pose huge safety and health risks to affected residents, as well as potential economic and financial risks. More than that, it puts huge strain on fire-fighting resources.”

The City also announced it had made history yesterday as it was for first time in SA that technology has been used to display exactly where its resources were to assist in managing disasters.

“It’s a first in SA at municipal level,” said mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.

Meanwhile, 10 of the 22 people injured when a fire raged through the Badberg Mountain and the nearby Goudini Spa resort in the Slanghoek Valley are being treated in hospital for mild smoke inhalation.

When paramedics arrived at the resort and found the patients scattered around, firefighters were already battling the blaze on a number of the buildings and evacuated the premises.

ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said the remaining patients declined transportation to hospital.

Also, the Somerset West fires, which are estimated to have caused more than R50 million in damage, were under control but firefighters were monitoring flare-ups.

Earlier this week, Smith announced the city was willing to offer a reward for anyone with information about the cause of the fires as they suspect arson.

I Additional reporting by Sandiso Phaliso

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