Cape Town - Fifteen separate fires caused by lightning strikes have swept through five nature reserves around the province, gutting an overnight cottage on De Hoop’s popular five-day Whale Trail and leading to all hikers being evacuated.
One of the fires in the Overberg had swept through an area of about 10 000 hectares from Malgas to near Cape Infanta by late tuesday, and firefighters were set to fight the blaze through the night.
The Cupidoskraal cottage, the second overnight cottage on the Whale Trail, was destroyed after a lightning strike at Potberg in De Hoop reserve had set the veld on fire.
Lekkerwater, another house along the trail, but not one of the overnight spots, was also burnt down.
Reinhard Geldenhuys, head of disaster management in the Overberg, said on Wednesday that there had been three lightning-induced fires in De Hoop on Monday, when dry thunderstorms swept across the province.
“Two of these combined into one big fire, which was shunting down towards Cape Infanta. We asked for an Oryx helicopter from the air force, but it couldn’t take off because it was raining in Cape Town. The fire’s gone through a huge area, about 10 000ha, but not all of this veld has burnt, there are unburnt islands.
“We’ve contained it now at Infanta without losing any houses,” Geldenhuys said.
There were 110 firefighters on the ground, seven official firefighting vehicles and others that belonged to private landowners. Working on Fire teams had been deployed.
CapeNature spokesperson Justin Lawrence on Wednesday said lightning had started two fires in CapeNature’s Cederberg Wilderness Area, seven in the Outeniqua Nature Reserve, and three in the Riviersonderend Mountain Catchment Area.
Apart from De Hoop, no other buildings had been burnt in the reserves.
The Potberg side of De Hoop has been closed to the public and hikes on the Whale Trail cancelled.
“We may be able to reopen it (the trail) as a four-day hike. We will notify those who have booked,” Lawrence said.