Langa. 12.1.16. Shacks on fire at Langa along Jan Smuts Drive. Picture Matthew Withers

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service has responded to 495 fire calls since Thursday. On Tuesday, firefighters were battling two fires which broke out in informal settlements in Nyanga and Langa.

Fire and Rescue spokesman Theo Layne confirmed that several vehicles were on the scene to contain the fires.

This follows recent bush and mountain fires that engulfed the South Peninsula on Monday and stretched the city’s Fire and Rescue Services to capacity.

The city said that since last Thursday, its Fire and Rescue Service had responded to 495 fire calls which was an average of 99 incidents a day, an increase from the average of 69.5 in the first six days of the month. Of these, 428 were categorised bush, grass, and rubbish fires.

Fires have been burning around the Cape since the weekend, with the South Peninsula blazes damaging about 20 homes.

After teams spent most of Monday and Tuesday morning fighting the fires that burnt above Ocean View, Scarborough, Misty Cliffs and Kommetjie, the fires finally appeared to be under control by Tuesday afternoon.

The fires spread quickly due to the strong south-easterly winds, damaged at least 20 structures in the Rasta Camp in Ocean View and displaced 80 people.

Pics: Homes gutted in Cape fire

The city’s mayco member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, said it has been a dramatic and traumatic few days. “The gale-force south-easter has been our worst nightmare as it has simply accelerated the pace at which the fires have burned, with devastating consequences as seen in the Rasta Camp settlement in Ocean View,” said Smith.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a crew of 50 Fire and Rescue members, supported by various other agencies, were maintaining their presence in Red Hill, Scarborough, Ocean View and Kommetjie to monitor for any possible flare-ups, especially considering prevailing wind conditions.

Following reports of possible arson being behind the fires, Smith released a statement detailing the police’s plan to investigate the matter. “There has been a lot of talk about fires being set deliberately and I’m pleased that the provincial commissioner of police has appointed a task team to investigate.

“It is astonishing to think that there could be people out there who are cruel enough to intentionally set a fire, knowing very well what the potential consequences are,” he said.

Given these allegations of arson, the city is calling on residents to be extremely careful when handling flammable items or material.

“Now, more than ever, common sense is needed. I appeal to smokers to be mindful of how they are discarding their cigarette butts. Only make fires in designated areas and if you rely on candles or paraffin stoves, do not leave them unattended under any circumstances,” added Smith.

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Cape Argus