Cape Town scales back 'Herculean' firefighting efforts

Fire engulfs Noordhoek, Cape Town. (Matt Buckland)

Fire engulfs Noordhoek, Cape Town. (Matt Buckland)

The firefighting efforts in the South Peninsula have been scaled back, the City of Cape Town said on Thursday.

“Firefighters are continuing to monitor hotspots for flare-ups in the South Peninsula this morning,” mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said in a statement.

“Currently, 10 ground crews continue to manage the situation in Constantia. A few ground crews are also on duty in Clovelly and along Boyes Drive, between Lakeside and Kalk Bay.”

He said a stop/go system was in place on Boyes Drive. However, Chapman’s Peak Drive remained closed because it was “unsafe” for road users.

The fire started on Sunday and was contained but – fanned by strong winds – it flared up again just after 2am on Monday in Muizenberg, above Boyes Drive.

It then spread to Ou Kaapse Weg, Chapman’s Peak, Hout Bay, and Tokai.

Smith said the city’s fire safety division confirmed on Wednesday that 13 properties had been affected by the fire.
These included the Tintswalo Lodge at the foot of Chapman’s Peak.

Three of the properties – two in Constantia and one in Noordhoek – have been completely destroyed.

A Herculean effort
“The City of Cape Town firefighter who sustained burn wounds to his hands and face on Monday is recovering in hospital and should be discharged tomorrow to recuperate further at home,” said Smith.

He said another firefighter twisted his ankle, while a volunteer from Working on Fire broke her arm.

“I want to wish these staff members a speedy recovery and thank them and their colleagues for what has been a truly Herculean effort – from those staff members on the frontlines to staff behind the scenes, coordinating resources and helping us communicate with the public.

“Also, we’re enormously grateful to the residents of Cape Town for their support and encouragement, as well as the volunteers who signed up in their numbers to help out,” said Smith.

He said during the next few days mopping up activities and an assessment of the total damages and cost of the operations would be done.

Forensic investigators would also determine, where possible, the cause of the fires.

By Wednesday, a total of 500 people had been evacuated since the fire began. Fifty two frail care residents from a Noordhoek retirement village were treated for smoke inhalation.

More than 2 000 people helped to quell the fire on Wednesday, the environmental affairs department said at the time. About two million litres of water had been dumped on the fire.

However, the helicopters used to water bomb the flames had to stand down because of the smoke and the weather.

A total of 26 aircraft had been in the air since Sunday, Nqayi said. The 198 hours already flown cost an estimated R2-million. – Sapa

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