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Helderberg fire: damage to 280 hectares, nature reserve closed

City of Cape Town deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Alderman Eddie Andrews, and Roy Ernstzen, the City’s head of nature conservation for the East Region. Photo: CoCT

City of Cape Town deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Alderman Eddie Andrews, and Roy Ernstzen, the City’s head of nature conservation for the East Region. Photo: CoCT

Published Jun 14, 2022

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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has announced the closure of the Helderberg Nature Reserve for the next month.

This in order to provide its biodiversity team with an opportunity to assess the damage and to determine which reinstatement measures are required.

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The Helderberg fire has damaged about 280 hectares of the reserve.

The fire broke out early on Saturday morning and was only contained on Sunday.

According to the City, the fire did not have a negative impact as much of the veld was mature and due for a managed ecological burn.

The Cape Winelands District Fire Services battled the fire that started on the Lourensford Estate until the weekend. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)

The City’s Biodiversity Management team was currently assessing the damage to the reserve infrastructure, but it confirmed various benches, water bars on the trails and a portion of the boardwalk around the duck pond were destroyed by the fire.

Cape Town deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Eddie Andrews, said over the next few weeks the reserve staff would be attending to urgent erosion work and focus on ensuring the infrastructure, such as the fences and picnic area, was safe for public use.

Councillor Norman McFarlane, Alderman Eddie Andrews and Roy Ernstzen. Photo: CoCT

Andrews said: “While wildfires are unplanned, they do provide the opportunity to achieve several interventions after the fire.

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“One can remove old infrastructure such as internal fences, and potentially remove dumping and other foreign material.

“As in the case of the Helderberg reserve, the fire is also a great catalyst for speeding up planned ecological restoration activities.

“Alien plants in the area can also be controlled now as they germinate after the fire and the team can look at introducing locally indigenous species in degraded areas.”

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He said the fire was a critical ecological driving force and good for conserving fynbos biodiversity in the long term.

“Most of the vegetation in the area of this fire was already 13 years old. Therefore good seed banks are in place for germinating this winter.

“We therefore look forward to spectacular bulb displays in the reserve this spring,” Andrews said.

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Communication for the reopening of the reserve will be made to the public timeously.

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