Western Cape wants wildfires classified as a provincial disaster

All flare-ups were contained in the Hangklip road fire in the Overstrand Municipality on Thursday.

All flare-ups were contained in the Hangklip road fire in the Overstrand Municipality on Thursday.

Published Feb 2, 2024


Because firefighters have been hard at work battling several infernos, the Western Cape government wants the National Disaster Management Centre to classify the wildfires as a provincial disaster.

Fires in several communities in the Cape Winelands and Overberg districts have been raging since last week, with high temperatures and strong winds fuelling the flames.

Evacuations from properties in Pringle Bay were ordered several times as part of precautionary measures, but were later lifted.

Some homes were in affected areas such as Wolseley, Rawsonville and Brandwacht.

Local Government and Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell on Thursday said that the infernos required a large and co-ordinated firefighting effort, and the provincial government needed to be able to respond to a fast-changing situation.

“A provincial disaster classification will empower Premier Alan Winde and the Minister of Finance to move funding as and when we need it to sustain our firefighting efforts.

“We have the necessary resources available to address the wildfires, but the disaster declaration will give us the ability to co-ordinate optimally. We are doing everything to protect lives and property,” said Bredell.

He urged the public to report any sightings of a fire as quickly as possible to the closest authorities.

“Experience over many years has taught us that the faster the initial response, the better our chances are of successfully controlling a fire before it spirals out of control,” he added.

By 4pm on Thursday, Overstrand municipal manager Dean O’Neill said all flare-ups had been contained.

“Firefighters will continue throughout the night with mop-up operations. The evacuation of Pringle Bay properties has been lifted and people can return to their homes,” he said.

The R43 between the Pearly Beach crossing and die Damme remained closed as thick smoke had reduced visibility.

Aerial resources were dispatched again to assist ground teams and crews. Winde said fires had stretched the emergency teams to their limit.

“I have all the confidence in our entire disaster management network to eventually bring the blaze under control, with officials in the public and private sector working together round the clock to protect lives and infrastructure.”

“Our disaster management staff have gone from floods to fires, and I know the significant toll that it takes on our dedicated staff and all the volunteers who always step up,” he said.

Meanwhile the Mustadafin Foundation has been assisting the close-knit community of Kluitjieskraal in Wolseley which is grappling with the aftermath of a devastating fire that left nearly 500 residents in dire need of support.

The Kluitjieskraal fire has impacted 20 000 hectares of land and caused severe damage to homes.

The foundation is providing cooked meals, essential perishable items and non-perishable items to residents.

“While their efforts have made a difference, the scale of the devastation requires more public support. Families in Kluitjieskraal are now faced with the daunting task of rebuilding.

“In this challenging time, we are extending an urgent appeal to fellow citizens and businesses to please donate essential items to help affected families to rebuild their lives. Linen, bedding, food, and various household items are urgently needed to help Kluitjieskraal residents.

“No contribution is too small. Every act of kindness, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can make a significant impact on the lives of these families,” said Mustadafin Foundation’ s Ghairunisa Johnstone-Cassiem.

Donations to the Mustadafin Foundation can be sent to Standard Bank, branch code 025909, account no 072 778 377 or visit 154 Antelope Street to drop off items.

For more information, call 021 633 0010 or visit mustadafin.org.za.