Rain, cooler weather reduce Cape Town fires

Rain and cooler weather in Cape Town and surrounds seem to have resulted in fewer veld fires than previous years since the onset of the fire season on 1 December, with data showing a steep decline in vegetation fires for the first two weeks of the month to 313 compared with 672 last year and 547 in 2019.

“We have seen a downturn in the number of vegetation fires, compared to previous years. This could very well be the result of the milder weather conditions we have been experiencing,” mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith told the Mail & Guardian.

South African National Parks (SANParks) spokesperson Rey Thakhuli described the start of the province’s fire season as average.

“In the past five years there have been significant rains in December which usually leads to a later and longer season. Therefore for this season we’re predicting a longer season by end of April/early May 2022,” Thakhuli said. The Western Cape province follows a winter rainfall pattern. 

During the second week of December there were seven fires in various areas, with a high number reported in the Ocean View area. The exact causes of these fires were still under investigation, Thakhuli said.

The City of Cape Town provides additional firefighting resources during the fire season months between December and April. 

“These additional resources include aerial support, seasonal firefighters and this year, we also have an additional 22 firefighters who recently graduated after completing their training,” Smith said.

This April, just as the fire season came to an end, Cape Town experienced the devastating Rhodes Memorial fire which saw residents living near the slope of Table Mountain forced to evacuate their homes. The fire, carried by strong winds, gutted historic landmarks and engulfed the University of Cape Town’s Jagger Reading Room, destroying thousands of unique and irreplaceable documents.

Initially the cause of the fire was thought to have been an untended vegetation fire, but an independent report revealed that it was started deliberately. No one has been arrested as the investigation continues. 

Members of the public can report fires by calling their local district municipality. In Cape Town it is 107 or 021 480 7700 from a cell phone. For other Western Cape municipalities, click here.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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