Firefighters check Sir Lowry’s Pass blaze

Firefighters check Sir Lowry’s Pass blaze

20 January 2006

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South Africa — Firefighters on Thursday night dramatically prevented the fire raging on Sir Lowry’s Pass from surging down the tinder-dry mountain into the Helderberg basin.

Fanned by a strong south-easter, the fire began on Thursday next to the informal settlement beside the N2 at Grabouw, and raged north towards the mountains, incinerating fynbos and pine forests.

By sunset it had travelled more than 5km and reached the mountains at Sir Lowry’s Pass – and soon began climbing the peaks.

Two helicopters, directed by fire chiefs in a circling spotter plane above, bombed the fire furiously.

Well into the night, the fire burned down towards the N2 on the Somerset West side of the mountain, forcing traffic authorities to close the N2 for three hours and redirect traffic via Rooi Els andFranschhoek.

But five fire-fighting teams working after midnight stopped the fire, and the road was re-opened.

“The wind was playing havoc with the fire. It pushed it this way and that,” said Helderberg station officer Arlene Wehr.

Farms, forests and homes were in the fire’s path on the Helderberg side.

At Sir Lowry’s Pass lookout point early today teams were dispatched to dampen smouldering hot spots to prevent the flames igniting again, Wehr said.

Earlier, Cape Nature Conservation spokesman Leon Lourens said the fire at the Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve in the Helderberg area affected two to three-year-old veld which took close to nine years to seed.

“The fire has set back the growth of protea species by 18 years,” said Lourens.

Close to 100 hectares of fynbos had been affected in the reserve.

The burnt pine plantation is owned by MTO Forestry.

Willem Jacobs, spokesperson for the plantation, said 150ha had been burnt. 


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