Late on Tuesday night firefighters were trying to prevent a runaway fire that had broken out on the Bo-Kaap side of Signal Hill from reaching homes in Sea Point and Green Point. Johan Minnie, spokesperson for Cape Town Disaster Management, said huge flames had swept over the top of Signal Hill onto the Atlantic Seaboard side. Residents watched in awe as the fire, burning over a wide front, snaked down the mountainside while a thick cloud of smoke impaired visibility, the scent of charred wood hung in the air and emergency vehicles raced along the narrow roads. Minnie said he was expecting firefighters to remain on the mountain throughout Tuesday night. Helicopters would be called in at first light.
Close encounter: A runaway fire on Signal Hill has come very close to destroying homes on Longmarket Street in the Bo-Kaap. Photo: Andrew Ingram, Cape Times
The size of the flames was unbelievable Cape Town firefighters had been assisted by staff from the Table Mountain National Park, South African Police Service, Disaster Management and the city’s traffic police, who regulated traffic so emergency vehicles could reach the area. A number of medics were also on duty. Green Point resident Merc Zandhuis said the size of the flames was “unbelievable”. The fire had broken out about 9pm above the Bo-Kaap, where for an hour historic homes were under threat. But residents did not panic, with many saying that the direction of the wind would determine whether their homes would have to be evacuated. Earlier, homes near the noonday gun had appeared under threat from fast-spreading and ferocious flames driven by a strong wind. But firefighters beat back the blaze.
The Signal Hill fire was the third last night.
Just before 8pm fighters battled to quell a veld fire in District Six. Minnie said three pumps and a water tender had been called to the scene next to the Cape Technikon. No homes had been under threat, he said.
A fire above Boyes Drive in Muizenberg was brought under control and monitored. It had broken out above Kalk Bay on Monday and spread rapidly, threatening to encroach on homes, but was brought under control before flaring up again. Eight fire engines, three helicopters and a spotter plane had worked to bring the fire under control.
The three fires on Tuesday were the second set on successive days and nights.
On Monday firefighters and helicopters tackled a rapidly spreading fire in Hout Bay that took hours to quell because of the strong Southeaster.
This article was originally published on page 1 of The Cape Times on January 12, 2005