As fires at Franschhoek continued to burn for an 11th day running, the people suspected of starting some of them may have to pay the cost of firefighting, which has reached R800 000 and will be over R1-million by Friday. The fires cost almost R100 000 a day to fight.
The programme manager of fire for CapeNature, Zane Erasmus, said on Wednesday: “The department of water affairs and forestry says people responsible for runaway fires can be held accountable for damages and costs. Records show that four fires, in Bain’s Kloof, Wemmershoek, the Berg River Dam area and Simonsberg, were started by human negligence.”
Erasmus said a December fire in Bain’s Kloof was started by children.
The vegetation is like fuel and it makes the fire very intense and hot’
The Wemmershoek fire started at the back of an informal settlement and the Berg River Dam fire – these two fires are collectively referred to as the Franschhoek fires – were started by a landowner burning rubbish.
CapeNature officials have laid a charge concerning this fire.
A fire burning out of control at Simonsberg near Stellenbosch, which started on Tuesday on a private farm, was also allegedly the result of “human negligence”.
“A prohibition on fires in the Boland was put in place on November 1 by the government, but people just ignore it and defy the law,” said Erasmus.
A ban was put on open fires, which included braai fires and the burning of rubbish.
According to the National Veld and Forest Fire Act of 1998, all landowners would be responsible for any fire that started on, or spread from, their land.
“A lot of alien invader species are burning. It’s making the fire difficult to control. The vegetation is like fuel and it makes the fire very intense and hot. Such vegetation also burns for much longer,” said Erasmus.
Two SA Air Force Oryx helicopters and an Alouette helped to battle the blazes.
The manager of fire services for the Cape Winelands District Municipality, Danie Wilds, said “a lot of fire engines” were on standby at farms in case the flames spread to them.
A fire that started on Tuesday in the Pniel area was brought under control on Wednesday with the help of a fixed-wing aircraft.
Firefighters were struggling late on Wednesday night to control an extensive veld fire that broke out at Red Hill above Simon’s Town, with strong winds in the area making their task harder.