Cape Town fire: Suspect arrested for alleged arson in separate blaze, since contained

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is investigating an act of arson after it is believed that a separate fire in the vicinity of Devil’s Peak was started deliberately. This caused crucial fire-fighting resources to be deployed to the area, which were being used to battle the massive Rhodes Memorial fire

Philip Prins, the fire manager of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), said in a Twitter post on Sunday evening that a deliberately set third fire had been successfully contained above Philip Kgosana Drive.  

The fire was not an extension of the Rhodes Memorial fire, he added.  

On Monday morning, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, responded to widespread speculation about additional fires, and if these could have been acts of arson.  

Smith did not say if the Rhodes fire was a result of arson, but did confirm the arrest of one suspect on Sunday evening in relation to the Devil’s Peak fire.

“The City can confirm that one suspect in his thirties was taken into custody last night in the vicinity of Devil’s Peak. He was spotted by a resident, who tracked him down with the help of his sons and the family’s dogs. 

“The matter is with SAPS for investigation and further details will follow as they become available.”

Meanwhile, Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre (DRMC) has widened its sphere of evacuations as the Rhodes fire is rapidly spreading because of strong winds. 

Charlotte Powell, the spokesperson for DRMC, said they had started to evacuate Disa Park and Mountain View in Vredehoek after precautionary evacuations in Peppertree Road. 

All schools in the Vredehoek area have also been told to evacuate. 

“Teams are also en route to Zonnebloem to assess the situation. Residents are requested to please cooperate with the instructions of DRMC staff and the enforcement services, and to evacuate as quickly as possible if requested,” said Powell. 

It is believed the Rhodes Memorial fire originated on Sunday morning, 18 April, from a vacated vagrant fire above the M3 expressway (Philip Kgosana Drive) before it quickly spread towards the Rhodes Memorial, and from there to the Rondebosch campus of the University of Cape Town. 

This is a developing story: updates will be posted during the course of the day.

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

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