Wednesday, December 10, 2008

South Africa fire update

Photo: Glenn Poley

Photo: Wayne Mongie

As the fire season in North America winds down (except Californians say they have a never-ending fire season) the southern hemisphere is entering theirs. Here is an update from News24 on the fires in South Africa that Wildfire Today told you about yesterday.
Cape Town - A fire was still raging in the Hottentots Holland mountain range in the Western Cape on Wednesday morning, according to disaster officials.

"There are still hot spots on the mountain range," said Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town's Disaster Risk Management Centre.

"They will try to extinguish the fire by today [Wednesday] or tomorrow [Thursday]."

The fire on the edges of Gordon's Bay residential areas was under control and firefighters were now focusing on the mountain range which is part of the Cape Fold Belt in the Western Cape. Solomons-Johannes said weather officials had indicated that strong gale-force southeasterly winds should be expected on Wednesday, associated with very windy and dry conditions.

"All 28 fire stations are on readiness," said Solomons-Johannes.

The fire started on Monday, causing dozens of Gordon's Bay residents to be evacuated. Several firemen have been treated for smoke inhalation.


It wasn't funny at all. It was actually a terrifying experience when huge clouds of smoke came closer and he and his 87-year-old mother had to hurriedly evacuate a Gordon's Bay holiday flat, said funnyman and filmmaker Leon Schuster.

It was only hours after they had arrived in Cape Town from Bloemfontein for a family holiday.

Schuster said he had never seen such a sight - the top part of the mountain actually looked quite beautiful late at night, with "large stretches of orange flames spitting forwards".

The view from their hired apartment in Protea Street, right up against the mountain, was phenomenal, said Schuster. The problem was keeping the smoke from their eyes.

He was unsure at what time firefighters informed him and his mother, Jessie, that they had to evacuate the apartment. But it was dark outside due to the smoke, which made him realise why they'd been asked to leave.

As the usual road was closed, they had to use a detour which took about an hour-and-a-half, said Schuster. When they finally arrived at the bottom parking area in Gordon's Bay and he got out, he was blown back about four steps.

"I promise. And I'm not a terribly light fellow."

The gale-force wind blew his favourite black cap with white edging into the sea.

"It is amazing how quickly the wind drives the fire," he said on Tuesday while heading to the airport to fetch one of his twins. "I only realised (on Monday) how exposed one is when living against a mountain."

He said he saw how the flames reached the lower wooden deck of a holiday home, and how firefighters tried to stop them.

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