WATCH: DA calls for probe into Table Mountain fire as more Walmer Estate residents evacuate
Cape Town – The DA has called for an independent investigation into the Table Mountain fire as more City Bowl residents have been forced to evacuate their homes, with some concerned about their pets.
This as a suspect in his thirties has been arrested in connection with the fires raging on Table Mountain, mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith confirmed on Monday morning.
The vegetation fire, believed to have been started by a vagrant, first moved up towards Rhodes Memorial and then towards the UCT upper campus on Sunday morning.
More people from Walmer Estate, near Zonnebloem, in the City Bowl have been ask to leave their homes. Some Walmer Estate residents could be seen trying to stop the fire from reaching their homes.
Active firefighting is concentrated on Vredehoek, Philip Kgosana Drive and UCT, with more than 150 firefighters and 32 firefighting appliances at work to try to control the blaze.
The SANDF has put its available air resources in Cape Town on standby for assistance on Table Mountain National Park.
Anton Bredell, Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC, said in a statement at noon: “At the moment the wind is too strong and it is not safe to fly the helicopters. As soon as the weather permits, the air force will be in the air. The Oryx can carry a water payload of 2 000 litres per drop.’’
Bredell says the City of Cape Town and its partners continue to tackle the wildfire despite the gale force wind.
“We want to urge the public to work with the authorities and obey all instructions. In addition, reports of people trying to access the mountain at various points for recreational purposes is concerning. People are asked to avoid the Table Mountain area while the fire remains ongoing.”
SANParks estimates that roughly 400 hectares of wild land has been destroyed so far while the City of Cape Town has reported eight structures have been damaged and/or destroyed in the fire that broke out yesterday morning. The eight structures includes four building on the campus of the University of Cape Town which has been damaged in the fire.
When asked if she was worried about her cats, an elderly woman from Walmer Estate told an ANA photographer: ’’My cats are locked up in the house because I can’t catch them; they won’t come out.’’
Walmer Estate resident Ronald Renno, 74, sitting in his car with his mother, Brigitte Renno, 94, since earlier this morning with their dog and suitcase, told an ANA photographer: ’’It all started slowly (the fire). And this morning the wind changed and it started coming up. First it ran to Devil’s Peak and then it turned around and came to us.
’’And then we just sat watching it, and then you get more nervous. Then eventually they told us we must get out of the house. So we’ll see (what happens), but they are doing a good job.’’
Evacuations have already taken place at UCT as well as the following locations in Vredehoek: Peppertree Road, Ministerial Estate, Disa Park and Mountain View complex. All schools in Vredehoek have been asked to evacuate.
DA environment spokesperson Dave Bryant said: ’’The DA has today written to Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy to request an urgent investigation into the circumstances leading to the fire on the slopes of Table Mountain and the subsequent damage to UCT, Mostert's Mill and other buildings.
’’We have requested that the investigation be led by an independent entity with the aim to establish (but not be limited to) the following:
- Whether all fire breaks in the area were properly cut and maintained prior to the outbreak of the fire.
- Whether the threat of the high fuel load from the old pine trees and debris close to UCT had been identified by SAN Parks, and if so, why this had not been addressed?
- Whether all fire hydrants in the area were/are in proper working order and whether there were a sufficient number of hydrants.
- Whether there are other areas in the Table Mountain National Park with high fuel loads that could lead to other fires.
’’While the hot weather and high winds certainly played a major role in the fast spread of this fire, there should have been more effective contingency measures in place to prevent the rapid spread and both SANParks and UCT need to provide answers in this regard.
’’In response to a parliamentary question I submitted in February, Minister Creecy gave the assurance that SANParks was preparing for potential mountain fires and that homes close to the mountain were protected by fire breaks.
’’It appears that these fire breaks have not proven as effective as thought, as it is clear that the fire managed to reach suburban homes and cause severe damage to UCT. Burning debris and embers spread to suburbs quite far from the mountain edge, setting trees alight.
’’We commend and thank all those brave firefighters, rangers, volunteers and law enforcement staff for their ongoing efforts to stop the fire and keep communities safe. Our thoughts are also with all those whose properties have been damaged or are under threat.’’
In the event of an emergency please contact:
- City of Cape Town Emergency Services Landline: 021 480 7700; Cellphone: 107
- Provincial Emergency Number – 112
- Table Mountain National Park – 021 957 4700