Here’s a summary of the main fires between 1 November 2017 and 11 February 2018.
1 NOV – GRABOUW
The first fire of the season started on a farm in Grabouw. The fire burnt a fuel load lying in the veld. The fire was put out a few hours later, thanks to the Fire Management Unit (FMU) leader, Andy Selfe, and with support from the farmer.
Photo credit: Andy Selfe
7 NOV – SIR LOWRY’S PASS
On 7 November, a major wildfire broke out on Sir Lowry’s Pass, burning on both sides of the N2. ODM Fire and Rescue teamed up with the City of Cape Town fire teams. By the following day, the N2 had been reopened, as the teams put out the final hot spots in plantations towards Steenbras.
Photo credit: iTraffic (http://m.i-traffic.co.za/
11 NOV – DIPKA SWELLENDAM
Swellendam experienced its first fire of the season on 11 November. The wildfire started in the DIPKA area. Landowners responded quickly with skid units, tractors and scrapers, supported by the ODM fire teams – and put out the fire a few hours later.
28 NOV – MARLOTH MOUNTAINS SWELLENDAM
Another fire broke out outside Swellendam, in the Marloth Mountains on 28 November. The fire started below Cape Nature’s offices, and grew quickly as a result of strong winds. However, quick reaction from the FMU leader, Danie du Bruyn, ODM Fire and Rescue teams, CapeNature, Working on Fire and landowners ensured the fire was extinguished a few hours later.
2 DEC – BONTEBOK NATIONAL PARK SWELLENDAM
The Bontebok National Park, outside Swellendam, experienced a wildfire on 2 December. The fire was fanned by a south-westerly wind. ODM fire and Rescue and SANParks teams, as well as landowners, responded quickly, and managed to extinguish the fire soon after.
5 DEC – HOUWHOEK PASS BOTRIVER
A dangerous fire broke out east of the Houwhoek Pass, close to Botriver, on 5 December. The fire headed towards the Groenlandberg Conservancy – an identified hotspot. While teams nearly brought the fire under control numerous times, the tough terrain hampered their efforts – in particular the burning trees that crashed to the earth. The fire was monitored over night, and finally contained. Photo credit: Reinhard Geldenhuys.
7 DEC – CALEDON & GREYTON
Two wildfires broke out on 7 December. A wildfire started at the Caledon rubbish dump. It was believed to have been a malicious ignition. Despite efforts to prevent the fire from spreading, it jumped the road and raged out of control before being contained.
A second fire started behind the Greyton Old Age Home. Burning in thick vegetation, teams struggled to control this fire. The following day, teams managed to contain the blaze, thanks to ODM Fire & Rescue, CapeNature, landowners and volunteer firefighters. Around 65 hectares burned.
12 DEC – BREDASDORP
Just 3km south east of Bredasdorp, a fire broke out in an area covered by invasive species. Strong south-easterly winds and high temperatures fanned the flames. Landowners and ODM Fire and Rescue teams fought the fire together. At the time, affected roads were closed. The following day the fire was contained, with some 115 hectares burnt, including the Bredasdorp Golf Club greens. The teams were especially grateful to two primary school boys, Duncan Visagie and Danwill Tobias, who volunteered to rescue tortoises.
15 DEC – WALKER BAY
The Overstrand had its first fire on 15 December, when a wildfire was reported in the Walker Bay area. The fire burned in a terrain that was hard to reach. The teams fought throughout the night, and by the next day, mopping up operations started. Photos: Izelle Nieuwoudt.
30 DEC – HOUWHOEK MOUNTAINS
Teams fought a fire on the foothills of the Houwhoek peak on 30 December. The windy conditions and thick vegetation hampered their efforts. And a sizeable burn scar greater than 30 ha resulted. By the following day, the fire had been contained.
2 JAN – JAKKELSRIVIER
A few days later, a wildfire burned out of control from the Jakkelsrivier, between the Houwhoek Inn and the Wildekrans Country House. Aerial resources were activated, and joined by Working on Fire, NCC Environmental Services teams, CapeNature, Provincial Disaster Risk Management and ODM teams. A few hours later, the fire was declared contained, getting it out took a few days.
7 JAN – BAARDSKEERDERSBOS
Holidaymakers in the Strandskloof Holiday Resort in the Overstrand were evacuated as a precaution on 7 January, when a fire broke out in the Baardskeerdersbos area. The fire spread from Uilenkraalsmond in a north easterly direction. By day 2, the fire was contained – thanks to the chopper and heli-tac teams.
10 JAN – CALEDON
A wildfire started behind a church in Caledon on 10 January, and quickly headed up towards the mountains above Myddleton. Teams had to work hard to prevent the fire from spreading to Caledon. The fire burnt in steep slopes in difficult terrain, although it did not threaten property. By day 2, the fire still burnt, as flare-ups were experienced.
11 JAN – BOTRIVIER & VILLIERSDORP
A fire also broke out close to Botriver on 11 January (one of four fires that started on this day). The N2 was closed as a result of the smoke. Choppers were used to protect infrastructure, but six people were treated by emergency personnel for smoke inhalation. Caledon and surrounding areas were without power, when this fire caused damage to power lines.
A wildfire burned above the town of Villiersdorp on 11 January. While land users and fire services fought to contain the spread, the fire still burned out of control 3 days later, with more than 60 firefighters on the line. More than 2500 hectares were destroyed during this fire.
4 FEB – R43 BETWEEN BOTRIVER AND KLEINMOND
On 4 February, a fire spread into thick invasive alien vegetation next to the R43 between Botriver and Kleinmond. While the fire burned on both sides of the road, the eastern flank proved a challenge, given the thick vegetation. ODM Fire & Rescue, Overstrand Fire & Rescue, FMU leaders, landowners, Working on Fire aerial support and CapeNature teams came together to tackle this fire. By the following day, the fire still burned out of control when the wind changed direction. The teams managed to protect Ecology Lifestyle farm, but the fire spread onto Barton Vineyards and Villas, where aerial support was needed to protect property and livelihoods. The following day it spread in the opposite direction after a sudden wind change. By day 3, this fire was contained, after a number of challenging moments.
2 MARCH – PEARLY BEACH
A wildfire, driven by extreme conditions, broke out in Pearly Beach on 2 March. Much of the fire suppression activities were focused on protecting infrastructure - with the town itself in the direct line of the fire. The R43 was closed due to low visibility. And it was only due to immense effort from fire-fighting teams and partners that no structures were lost. After two full days of fighting, the fire was finally largely contained, with mop-up operations continuing for a number of days afterwards. This fire showed the importance of partners: from the municipalities, the City of Cape Town, farmers, residents and of course the fire-fighting teams.