Cape fires threatening fynbos

Cape fires threatening fynbos

6 February 2009

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South Africa — Experts have warned that increased veld fires in the Western Cape are threatening the existence of several fynbos species.

Approximately two million hectares of protected fynbos are in danger.

“Fires are a natural phenomenon to fynbos and fynbos has adapted to fire. However, the phenomenon [fires] these days have become more frequent and intense. This has a negative impact on fynbos,” said Zane Erasmus, CapeNature’s fire programme manager.

The warning comes in the wake of a devastating fire on the mountains in the Stellenbosch area on Wednesday. By late yesterday, firefighters had managed to bring the inferno under control.

Five homes were evacuated in the area and buildings belonging to the University of Stellenbosch were damaged. Students also had to be evacuated from a sports complex and a hockey international between South Africa and Germany was postponed.

“The fire is manageable, but will not be extinguished within the next two days because our vehicles cannot access the mountainous parts,” said Lizaan Morta, Manager of Fire Services Stellenbosch.

Meanwhile, De Waal Drive in Cape Town was opened again yesterday afternoon after a fire subsided on the slopes of Table Mountain, the local fire authority said.

A team of 16 firefighters was sent to the area, while another team of 17 members would spend the night on the mountain.

The other big fire in the Overberg on Thursday earlier in the day forced the evacuation of several homes in an informal development in Gansbaai.

Elsewhere, firefighters were also kept busy with several other blazes, with some expressing doubt about the fire in Stellenbosch being put out.

“It all depends on the wind,” said Leon Morta, firefighting head of the Stellenbosch municipality.

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