Photo: Greater Overberg FPA
Photo: Greater Overberg FPA

Wind, poor visibility hampering firefighters' efforts in Overberg

Time of article published Jan 4, 2019

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Cape Town – Firefighters are still trying to bring a vegetation fire between Pringle Bay and Betty's Bay in the Overberg under control. 

The fire, which started on New Year's Day, has now burnt about 4 500 hectares of land. But Overstrand Municipality fire chief Lester Smith said on Friday the fire currently poses no danger to property as it is now burning high up in the mountains, the SABC reported.

Smith said the fire is still out of control in the mountain behind Betty's Bay in the Kogelbay Nature Reserve and it's moving away from the little town.

A total of 110 firefighters are battling severe winds, poor visibility and a mountainous area that is difficult to negotiate.  

"Helicopters are on standby. As soon as the visibility improves, we will resume the aerial support for the rescue services on the ground," Smith told Netwerk24.

Meanwhile, a 34-year-old man has been arrested following the devastating blaze that tore through the Overstrand area.

The suspect was a local resident of the Mooiuitsig community near Betty's Bay, according to police. Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Sharon Bosch had said a R5 000 reward was offered for any information that could lead to the arrest of a suspect who discharged a flare in the Kogelbay Nature Reserve during the early hours of New Year's day.

The community reported that shortly after midnight a flare, or possibly two, were noted.

The 34-year-old man was arrested for contravention of the Nature Conservation Act, a charge more serious than arson, News24 reported. He will appear in court on Monday.

"We arrested the suspect for the fires. We've got witnesses also. We locked the suspect at Kleinmond police station," Captain Harold Nqwenani said.

A 59-year-old woman who stayed in Elizabeth Road, Pringle Bay, died in the blaze, police said, but the cause of death has not yet been determined. Three people were also injured in the fire, two seriously.

“Cause of the fatality is currently unknown, SAPS and forensic services are investigating. We request the public to keep the communities of Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay, Hangklip and surrounding rural area in their thoughts, it was a traumatic night full of uncertainty,” Bosch said.

The blaze had engulfed the area surrounding the R44. It was brought under control, but families were forced to evacuate their homes near Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay, Rooi Els and Hangklip on Thursday morning after strong winds set the area ablaze again.

Bosch said a limited number of structures were affected by the fire and an assessment is under way.

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