All I could see was thick, black smoke’

All I could see was thick, black smoke’

6 February 2009

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South Africa — Firefighters are bracing themselves for another day of runaway blazes such as Thursday when fires raged across the peninsula resulting in officers rushing from one scene to another while battling gusting winds and soaring temperatures.

The temperature is expected to climb to 34°C on Friday and last night Deon Smit, a control centre supervisor at the city’s Fire Command and Control Centre, said firefighters were preparing themselves for another busy day.

Rescue workers were also on high alert last night in case more fires broke out and spread.

Yesterday city firefighters had their hands full responding to up to 80 blazes.At one stage three grass fires spread in the city centre causing a thick haze of smoke to hang over the city for about an hour.

Plumes of smoke from at least three other blazes could be seen along the N1 highway.

On a grassy area below De Waal Drive firefighters battled to control thick orange flames which spread right up to buildings and flats.

Residents, coughing and their eyes streaming tears, rushed out with hoses and buckets of water trying to protect their properties.

Countless fire engines lined the roads as the blaze spread down towards Roeland Street.

A resident in Justice Walk said a neighbour woke her up and told her to evacuate her home.

“When I walked outside all I could see was this thick black smoke,” she said.

As the blaze was brought under control with help of a Working on Fire (WoF) helicopter, firefighters then rushed to Paarden Eiland where another grass fire was burning.

Only the flashing lights of fire engines could be made out in the dense brown smoke.

Further along the N1 another smoke haze rose above the Wingfield military base where a large area of bush was on fire.

And while the City of Cape Town firefighters were juggling their resources, other firefighters in the Cape Winelands rushed to prevent a blaze on the mountains above Jonkershoek from spreading to houses.

Lizaam Morta, chief fire officer for the Stellenbosch Municipality, said the blaze had spread down the mountain threatening a number of homes.

At least six fire engines lined Brandwacht Street and thick red hoses zigzagged across the road, while two WoF helicopters dumped water on the flames which spread up to the backyards of homes.

The university’s spokesperson, Martin Viljoen, said the university’s Coetzenburg Stadium, which houses its sports science department and gymnasium, sustained “minor damage”, including broken windows, when the fire reached it late on Wednesday.

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