Forest and Bushfires in the Western Cape Region / South Africa; 18 January 2000

Forest and Bushfires in the Western CapeRegion/South Africa

18 January 2000

According to the Cape Times of 18 January 2000 it is suspected that arsonists could be behind some of the 120 fires that have destroyed thousands of hectares of veld, wine farms and dozens of homes in the region since the weekend. Firefighters battled from early Sunday until late on Monday to bring most of the fires under control. In Hout Bay, one house was gutted and four others partially burnt while in Langa, 40 shacks were completely destroyed. In the Boland, where pine plantations and fynbos are still smouldering, farmers have lost millions of rand after fires swept through several Stellenbosch wine estates. Fire also ripped through Silvermine and the mountains above Scarborough and Misty Cliffs, but none of the houses was damaged. Near Klipheuwel on the N7, vast stretches of veld and rooikrans were burning for the third day in a row, while fires at Gouda and Tulbagh had been brought under control on Monday. Delheim, where about 120 ha of pine plantations and about 20 per cent of their vineyards were destroyed, appears to be the worst hit of the wine estates.

Cape Fire Update 17 Jan 2000 14h30 by GFMC Correspondent Michael Calvin
Hout Bay, South Africa

Hout Bay (20 km south of Cape Town)

After days of intense fire behaviour the fires on the Cape Peninsula have slowed due to light winds, but there are many areas of concern. The weather remains very hot, about 35+°C, and there is still an offshore flow with low humidity. The weather forecast calls for strong southeast winds later today with no rain in the foreseeable future. There remains a grave threat from existing and new fires to communities, plantations, and wine farms.

Over the past few days over 120 fires havee been reported. According to many people this is the worst fire episode in 35 years. Arson is suspected as the major cause of most of the fires. The worst are fires near Hout Bay, Kommetjie, and Stellenbosch. The Hout Bay fire is causing concern on two fronts. On the north end it has spread close to an area called Constantia Nek. The area has a lot of houses and if it jumps the road to the north, the fire could burn up Table Mountain. Two water dropping Oryx helicopters are presently dropping water on hot spots. The southern end of the fire has burnt to the edge of Noordhoek, a small rural community.

The other fires are not controlled, but are not a threat to communities or property at present. There is a lot of open line so the situation could turn worse quickly. There is a lack of firefighting resources, especially given the extent and number of fires currently burning.

The next update will be provided tomorrow (Wednesday 19 January 2000).

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