Cape Town - A savage wildfire in the hills of Jonkershoek Nature Reserve has burnt through the equivalent of 1 130 soccer fields of fynbos and other dry vegetation.
And while it is not posing a threat to residential areas, CapeNature spokesman Justin Lawrence on Tuesday morning said teams were rushing to prevent the flames from spreading into the Helderberg Basin.
He said the fire began on Monday at 2pm in the reserve which is between Stellenbosch and Somerset West.
Three helicopters were called in to water-bomb the blaze. On Tuesday morning, firefighting efforts were delayed as a thick mist settled on the area.
Lawrence said over 700 hectares of vegetation had been burnt in the spreading flames and that the fire, which was still contained at the top of the mountains, was burning fiercely.
With so many people still on duty fighting fires or to counter any flare-ups of the recent fires in the Southern Peninsula , the costs incurred by those blazes have risen to an estimated R11 million, of which R5m represents the loss of infrastructure, although this excludes the cost of rehabilitation for Tokai and Silvermine.
About 6 900ha of Table Mountain National Park vegetation was burnt by the fires, which were finally doused over the weekend, as well as boardwalks and buildings in the park.
It’s too early to say what caused that spate of wildfires, but TMNP has appointed a wildfire investigator to get to the bottom of it.
Investigator Rob Erasmus from Enviro Wildfire Services has already started his investigation and on Tuesday morning was due to hike up to where the fire started in Peck’s Valley in Muizenberg 10 days ago. “We’ll be using a scientific technique to look at how it started and will be tracing the fire back from various points.”
Erasmus said there may have been different ignition points. “There is any number of possibilities and at this stage no one knows.”
He estimated it would take five to six hours to determine exactly where the fire started. The team will also need to determine which fires were linked to the original one and which were separate.
Erasmus said the Scarborough fire, for example, had already been found to have been intentionally set. “It was malicious. We found where it had been set and it is being investigated.”
The City of Cape Town has also appointed forensic expert David Klatzow to investigate the fires.
With the fires largely contained, teams have started mopping-up operations and assessing the damage. Yesterday several scorched snakes were spotted among the charred landscape in Tokai Forest.
In sections of the once lush expanse of green vegetation lay uprooted and blackened trees.
The forest’s popular mountain biking trails will be off limits for some time. The Wood Owl Guest Cottage in Tokai Forest was gutted. A skeleton of bricks with mangled glass and burnt-out contents including a fridge, TV, gas cylinder and bedsprings is all that remains.
Grant Newton, Groot Constantia marketing and sales manager, said while the fire reached the vineyards at the estate, damage was minimal and the vines that were scorched had been harvested.
The contents removed from the old Manor House at Groot Constantia, which is an Iziko Museum, as a precaution are still in safekeeping.
* Additional reporting by Junior Bester