A Fire burns close to a house in Slangkop Valley in the Twee Heuwels Mountains near Worcester. Photo: Ross Jansen
A Fire burns close to a house in Slangkop Valley in the Twee Heuwels Mountains near Worcester. Photo: Ross Jansen

Hikers, campers flee Cape fires

By Lauren Isaacs And Xolani Koyana Time of article published Jan 30, 2012

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About 100 people were evacuated from their homes as fires, fanned by strong winds, spread across the mountains in the Bainskloof Pass near Wellington, as well as near Stanford at the weekend.

In the Slangkop Valley near Bainskloof, farmworkers and their families were evacuated as a fire roared through the area on Sunday, damaging at least two houses. Campers at Steenbok Park were also asked to leave.

“We have 15 vehicles and about 150 firefighters at the scene. They have been trying to douse the fire throughout the night and continued today (Sunday), but the fire is spreading rapidly,” Cape Winelands Municipality station commander Roysten Harris said yesterday. He said the fire was approaching the Bainskloof Pass – between Wellington and Ceres – on Sunday.

“The cause of the fire is still unknown. However, the area around the pass has been experiencing very strong winds,” said Harris.

Three helicopters tried in vain to douse a fire that broke out on the Twee Heuwels mountain in the Slangkop Valley near Worcester on Saturday.

Working on Fire spokesperson Leanne McKrill said three helicopters had gone to help fight the huge bush fire.

“There was a family who went hiking on the mountain and they became trapped. A helicopter was on hand and took them to safety,” McKrill said.

Late Sunday evening about 40 men, women and children stood next to gravel roads, gasping as the fire approached.

One woman said this wasn’t the first huge blaze in the area.

“The previous instance all the vineyards had burnt out,” she said.

The woman also said the that they had experienced “extremely hot and windy” weather conditions.

The temperature in Wellington reached 39°C on Saturday and yesterday it was 38°C, according to the Cape Town Weather office.

Said fire chief RiaanJacobs: “We managed to protect the property from the fire. The fire has been contained, but it is far from being under control. It is very difficult because the wind direction keeps changing – you make plans and then 30 minutes later the wind changes.”

In Stanford near Hermanus another huge fire had threatened a wine farm on Saturday, Jacobs said.

He said the fire was burning across the mountains towards Hermanus on Sunday night .

Jamie Kastner, who runs Standford Hill Estate, said flames were about 150 metres from the farm and added that fynbos and trees were burnt, but that their vineyard was safe.

“At the moment it’s looking very bad. There are flames everywhere. It was really bad at the neighbouring farm.

“I suspect that they may have evacuated because the fire was burning all around their farm … anything could happen,” Kastner said.

While the Bainskloof fire was still out of control on Sunday night, at least two other fires were burning in the mountains above Rawsonville. - Cape Times

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