Firefighter collapses of smoke inhalation

Firefighter collapses of smoke inhalation

1 February 2006

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South Africa — Firefighters had another exhausting day as they battled blazes on several fronts in scorching hot and windy conditions across the Peninsula.

On Tuesday Oranjezicht and Tamboerskloof residents again faced the prospect of losing their homes, days after a huge fire on the slopes of Table Mountain came perilously close to doing so.

‘This hose cannot be used to douse flames’

The blazes were extinguished during the course of the night, but Table Mountain National Parks spokesperson Fiona Kalk said Working on Fire teams would continue to watch hot spots to guard against flare ups. She confirmed that no injuries and damage to property had been reported.

But residents in Lusaka informal settlement near Nyanga were less fortunate after a shack fire destroyed four homes.

Veld fires also raged in Rondevlei, Slangkop, Ocean View and Red Hill.

The Nyanga fire started at about 2.20pm, but was contained shortly afterwards after two fire engines were dispatched to the area.

Nomawethu Dayimani’s home, which she shares with her five children, was destroyed.

Dayimani said: “This is so bad I can’t believe this is happening again. When they called me at work to tell me, I didn’t believe it but now I can see thedamage.”

‘Very lucky the fire is not spreading’

This is the second time she has had to start from scratch – her home also burnt down about two years ago.

Johan Minnie, spokesperson for the Disaster Management, said about 20 people were affected by the Nyanga fire.

“The Red Cross will be providing relief to the families and they will also be provided with starter kits,” he said.

The Table Mountain fire flared up just after 2.30pm on Tuesday.

Dietmar Staugl, of Oranjezicht, watched anxiously as firefighters battled to contain the fire close to his home in Bridle Road.

But Staugl, originally from Austria, said he was glad the fire was not as close as last week’s blaze.

History repeating: A firefighter douses flames just above Oranjezicht in Cape Town

“We are very lucky the fire is not spreading in the direction of our house,” Staugl said. “Last week the fire was less than 60m away and we prepared to evacuate, but we didn’t have to.”

His wife Regina said they were grateful the children had been at school when the fire started on Tuesday.

Abe Barron, their next-door neighbour, was more concerned about a leaking City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue hose that could not be used to put out the fire.

“This kind of thing upsets me. How can they come so ill-prepared?” Barron said. “They should maintain the hoses, which should be prepared to assist in putting out fires.

“Thank God for the helicopter because this hose cannot be used to douse flames or wet grass just outside my backyard,” he added.

The city’s fire chief officer Piet Smith alleged last week that the city’s fire services budget cuts had severely depleted firefighting resources across the metropole.

Christina Boyson, Barron’s domestic worker of nine years, was standing on the third floor of his house when she noticed flames and was beside herself when she called him to come home.

“I was really scared and nervous (as) it looked so close to the house. I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to do. I called the fire department but they were already on their way,” Boyson added.

Tensions ran high as residents opened their driveway gates, ready to evacuate.

A little girl clutched her doll close to her as she watched firefighters rush past her in Bridle Road.

Sidwell Njece, from the Sea Point Fire and Rescue Department, collapsed of smoke inhalation while trying to douse flames.

Paramedics on site helped him down the slope just above Bridle Road and treated him using an oxygen mask.

Njece was then taken to Christian Barnard Hospital.

Eight fire engines and two helicopters were used to fight the Oranjezicht fire, but were re-routed to Tamboerskloof and Signal Hill just after 8pm, to fight another blaze.

Familiar sight: A helicopter waterbombs dried vegetation on the Table Mountain slope above Oranjezich to prevent the fire flaring up again. Photos: Ian Landsberg, Cape Argus

Last night Tony Buswell, the manager of the High Places apartment buildings in Quarry Hill Road, Tamboerskloof, said although the high-rise buildings were not under threat, he would not get a good night’s rest.

“At this stage we are still okay but if the wind brings the fire down the hill we may have a problem like we had on Friday afternoon.”

Sarah Holland, who lives in Quarry Hill Road, said she just wanted the whole fire saga to be over.

“On Friday and Saturday it was bad enough and we thought it was over, but the nightmare continues.”

The fire in Rondevlei was contained late on Tuesday afternoon.

About 50 firefighters from South Peninsula Fire Services and the National Parks battled for about three hours trying to douse the raging veld fire, which started near Lavender Hill and spread into the Rondevlei Nature Reserve.

Trevor Bailey, a South Peninsula fire officer, said the fire had started just before 2pm along Edward Road behind Lavender Hill and had been brought under control after 4pm.

“Strong winds made things difficult, but fortunately we had previous fires on the left flank of the reserve,” Bailey said. “This made it difficult for the fire to spread as there is no grass there yet.”

A fire broke out near Red Hill just after 2pm but fire services managed to contain it promptly.

Ignatius Smart said that soon after the Red Hill fire had been contained, two other bush fires had broken out near Ocean View. A fire had started in Jupiter Road, Ocean View, at 4.40pm and soon afterwards firefighters had been redeployed to a fire at Slangkop.

The fire at Slangkop Mountain Range just outside Ocean View near Kommetjie started on Monday evening but flared up again on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a bush fire that broke out near Stanford in the Southern Cape on Monday threatened homes last night.

Overberg district municipality fire chief Reinhard Geldenhuys said the fire was “completely out of control”.

“At the moment we’re just protecting houses, we are not even thinking about fighting the fire,” Geldenhuys said.

He said the fire had crossed the Stanford-Gansbaai road and was heading to the sea.


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