Here’s an overview of the Overberg’s major fires since December:
5 DECEMBER: BONTEBOK LIMEWORKS
Burn was not ecologically damaging, but a high risk to buildings. 20ha burned, while sporadic flare-ups continued for 3 days due to the dense vegetation and weather conditions. Multi team, including FPA, Aerial support and WoF ground crew fought the fire.
6 DECEMBER: GRABOUW
A wildfire started opposite the easterly turnoff to Grabouw from the N2 next to the Eskom Information Centre. The fire created chaos on the N2 due to heavy smoke. Under the leadership of Mr Neil Reid, FMU leader, farm owners and staff arrived in large numbers. Special thanks to Mr Mark Johns, from CapeNature Kogelberg Nature Reserve, who took over as Incident Commander to allow Fire Services to attend to other incidents.
13-15 DECEMBER: GRABOUW
A second Grabouw wildfire started in a high ignition area. For this fire, a Western Cape Provincial Government-funded specialist ground crew, NCC, was used with great success. For this fire two bomber, chopper and spotter plane played a vital role in the suppression of the fire (Arieskraal).
14 DECEMBER: GRABOUW
A wildfire started on a small-holding that has an interface with the town. Structures were threatened and aerial resources, including a bomber, were used. The Grabouw WVS team assisted during the night to fight the fire and made a fire break to secure one of the flanks. Flare-ups continued, keeping Malcolm Abrahams from Overberg District Fire & Rescue, and the farm owners under the leadership of the Grabouw FMU leader, Andy Selfe busy. Village of Hope/Thembalitsha Foundation, which supports children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and TB in Grabouw, was under-threat at one stage. The fire eventually crossed over to railroad (Transnet) and was stopped before reaching MTO land (Jagersvlakte).
15-20 DECEMBER: STORMSVLEI
A wildfire started in windy conditions late Thursday afternoon, 15 Dec in the Stormsvlei/Riviersonderend area. Aerial support was required to protect assets. The farm owner was well supported by neighboring farmers. Due to adverse weather conditions aerial support was used on Day 2. 15ha burned including wheat fields, forest and damage was caused to an olive grove.
18 DECEMBER: GREYTON
A wildfire started at 16.00, fanned by strong winds that threatened the town of Greyton. Aerial resources and multiple ground units were deployed. The fire was put out by midnight, with fynbos vegetation burned.
21 DECEMBER: BUFFELJAGS
The fire in the Swellendam area proved a tough battle. Lack of information due to high winds and smoke made the suppression very difficult. Many thanks to landowners under leadership of the FMU leader, De Villiers Swart, and Fire Services.
21 DECEMBER: STANFORD
The wildfire started early afternoon in a densely alien plant infested area, close to the industrial area and moved in the direction of Gansbaai. Overstrand Municipality Fire & Rescue deployed aerial resources and a Working on Fire ground team. No structures were under threat. FMU leaders coordinated farm owner support. Due to the type of vegetation this wildfire was ongoing for a few days.
The wildfire was in the same area as the wildfire of 8 January 2016, which lasted more than seven days and affected more than 10 land users, including the beautiful Walker Bay Nature Reserve, managed by CapeNature.
23 DECEMBER 2016 – SWELLENDAM/BUFFELJAGS
This wildfire spread in a northerly direction and burned on both sides of the N2. The fire threatened plantations. Landowners were quick to respond and managed to bring the fire under control. A special thanks to Danie de Bruyn for his efforts in fighting this fire.
23 DECEMBER 2016: CALEDON
The devastating wildfire started in veld next to the urban interface. Despite best preventative efforts of the landowner (goFPA member) and ODM Fire & Rescue Services – including a 200m fire break – the culprit(s) ignited the veld beyond the fire break.
The wildfire spread rapidly and made several flanks in stubble land pushed by a 65km/h wind. The warm, windy conditions and very dense smoke made suppression very difficult. All communication systems were overloaded. Three burn injuries were reported of which one resulted in a fatality. This tragic accident is devastating not only the community of Caledon, but to all.
This message was received from the family after the memorial service of Jannie Fourie:
“Ek wil graag vir elkeen groot dankie se vir al die omgee. Klein Jannie se laaste woorde: “Die Here is my Herder“, wil ek met julle deel en pleit by elkeen vandag, jy, jou vrou, jou kinders en werkers, maak vandag nog seker jy kan dit ook uitroep met jou laaste asem. Mag ons Hemelse Vader elkeen oorvloedig seen.”- Fouries van Dwaalhoek.
No structures were lost, but significant damage was caused to fences, vehicles, agriculture land and feed stock (hay stack). All production animals were moved to safety. Several days later, in scorching heat conditions, two high-risk areas were still battled and only contained at 22.00 on the 25th of December. This was made possible due to available landowners and a heavy vehicle equipment-company that worked tirelessly.
23 DECEMBER 2016 – BREDASDORP
In severe weather conditions (Red FDI). This wildfire spread rapidly and opened up to a wide area. By the morning of the 24th the fire line was five km’s long. Suppression activities included several hours of aerial support (helicopter), Working on Fire ground teams, Overberg Fire & Rescue services as well as landowners and their staff. The communication between the 40+ farm units and Fire Services was very successful and joint efforts saved several homes, infrastructure, livestock, a massive haystack and heavy equipment belonging to a local mine.
A special thank you to the grader operator – who worked tirelessly for 10 hours! All areas, except one, were out or safe by early evening on the 25th. The remaining area necessitated another huge effort to be contained, which was achieved in the early hours of the 27th of December. Again a big thank you to the grader operator.
28 DECEMBER 2016 – HOUWHOEK (GRABOUW)
At 22.00 a wildfire was reported near the Houwhoek Inn between the railway line and the N2 (near the Elgin wildfire of January 2016). The land users were ready for such an event and were quickly organized. ODM Fire & Rescue and CapeNature soon joined them on the fire line. A Working on Fire ground team was activated. A Transnet Freight Rail Fire Services team also assisted. No property was under threat and the fire was very difficult to access. This fire flared up twice due to dense vegetation – alien plants. Coordinated efforts of land users, Fire Services and CapeNature gave this wildfire its “final blow” early afternoon on the 31st of December.
29 DECEMBER 2016 – GRABOUW
Early morning of the 29th (1.00) a wildfire was reported on MTO-managed land above the informal settlement on the Cape Town side of the town. This wildfire quickly spread in the direction of Sir Lowry’s Pass and to the foot of Hanse Kop. Although the wildfire could be contained, the fire lines were very vulnerable to flare-ups. Thank you to the Grabouw FMU members that came to assist.
29 DECEMBER 2016 – VILLIERSDORP
A wildfire in the town gardens was put out by goFPA members in support of the ODM Fire & Rescue services.
31ST OF DECEMBER 2016 TO 13 JANUARY 2017 – GRABOUW
At 1.30 the ODM Fire & Rescue Divisional Commander (and IC) handed the fire over to MTO and reported the fire was out. Monitoring of the lines continued and on the 3rd of January at 11.00 a major flare-up was reported. Teams responded, wind speeds were measured at 63.7 km/h. This wildfire quickly spread to the Helderberg basin and resulted in a major incident. CapeNature and ODM took IC responsibility for the Hanse Kop wildfire and continued the battle with the support of aerial resources, Working on Fire ground teams, Volunteer Wildfire Services and NCC hotshot teams, while also battling local wildfires with the assistance from goFPA members.
Donations received in the form of drinks, medical supplies and food were overwhelming. Fifty pizzas arrived at the ICP, and went a long way in keeping teams motivated and feeling appreciated.
1 JANUARY 2017 – NAPKYSMOND (SWELLENDAM)
On New Year’s Day a wildfire started at midday at Napkysmond. Landowners and staff battled bravely to prevent spreading – this included an intense effort to make firebreaks in stubble lands next the river and continuous fighting of hotspots. An ODM Fire and Rescue vehicle assisted. Efforts on the 2nd of January were coordinated by the farm owners and the fire was finally contained late afternoon. Fire Services vehicles were re-deployed to Barrydale and could not provide support.
1 JANUARY 2017 – 10 JANUARY 2017
Between 1 January 2017 – 10 January 2017, four major fires were reported by the Overstrand Municipality, which burnt 150 hectares.
An appeal is directed to all residents to be vigilant in preventing fires that may spread out of control.
Fire Chief Lester Smith report as follows:
Kleinmond Fire : 4 January 2017 a veld fire was reported close to “Riemvasmaak residential area” in Kleinmond. Fire spread rapidly into the Kleinmond Mountain. Air and ground support was called in to assist fire-fighting operations. Approximately 40 fire fighters fought the fire. Area burned: approximately 100Ha. A special thanks to Mark Johns, CapeNature, for his vigilance and efforts to ensure (scarce) resources were allocated to this fire.
Arabella/ Kleinmond Fire: 8 January 2017, a veld fire was reported around 03h00, high on the mountain. Access to the fire was limited. First light additional air support and ground support was called in. Fire was contained within 4 hours. On scene were approximately 35 fire fighters (Overstrand; CapeNature and Working for Fire). Area burned approximately 40 ha.
Stanford: 8 January 2017, a veld fire was reported near the Stanford Reservoir mid-morning. Fire fighting vehicles were dispatched from Hermanus and Gansbaai Fire Stations. Approximately 35 fire fighters (Overstrand, Overberg Districts Municipality, goFPA and Working for Fire) were dispatched to the scene.
Gansbaai: 8 January 2017, a veld fire was reported (14h00) at Dallas farm close to Franskraal. Gansbaai Fire station was activated. On scene attendance, approximately 8 fire fighters.
1 JANUARY 2017 – BARRYDALE
The Barrydale fire started in the Swellendam Mountains (Tradouw Pass area) and quickly spread to the farmlands.
Landowners organized themselves while the fire was pushed by a strong wind. Aerial support was activated to protect infrastructure. A Cape Winelands District Municipality fire & rescue vehicle assisted the ODM and farm owners. A Working on Fire ground team was deployed in the mountainous area (CapeNature).
The wildfire burned very intensely in old renosterveld and spread fast. A sudden thunderstorm brought much needed relief which allowed the farm owners, ODM and the NCC ground team to put the fire out in the early hours of the 3rd of January 2017. Ongoing flare-ups and continued firefighting efforts were required to contain the blaze. On the 10th of January 2017 another Working on Fire team was deployed, assisted by aerial support. The team experienced multiple flare-ups during the day and managed to suppress large parts of the fire line. Hot and windy conditions hampered fire-fighting efforts.
From the 11th to present landowners rallied and managed to combine resources to fight the fire. The landowners and their staff have managed to contain the fire, although some hot spots still threaten. The lines are being monitored and contingency plans have been put in place.
4 – 7 JANUARY 2017 GENADENDAL/BEREA
was reported at 17.10 and quickly spread direction Bereaville. Overberg District Municipality
Fire & Rescue and Farm owners quickly responded. One flank burned in the mountain with the wind in the direction of old veld (Helderstroom) whilst a ground team was deployed on the other flank. Bereaville was made safe with the assistance of farmers. A battle within a battle was the protection of a structure (home stead) by the neigbouring land users (farmers). CapeNature continued to manage this fire and was out by the 7th
4 JANUARY 2017 – CALEDON
This stubble land wildfire was reported just after 13.00. Farm owners quickly responded and within an hour it was over. Ignition: Crow and a power line.
10 JANUARY 2017 – VYEBOOM/VILLIERSDORP
Due to the HanseKopFire the goFPA FMU leaders were put on high alert to react and support if required. This wildfire was quickly noticed and due to the Vyeboom and Villiersdorp Farmer Fire Truck put out the fire before damage.
12 JANUARY 2017 – BREDASDORP
This wildfire was in dense vegetation and threatened a structure – Headquarters of the Agulhas Round Table. It was brought under control by ODM Fire and Rescue. Their efforts to extinguish the fire continued for many hours in the dense vegetation.