Evacuations as blazes brush Grabouw

Evacuations as blazes brush Grabouw

25 February 2009

published by www.capeargus.co.za

South Africa — The relentless fire which has terrorised the Helderberg for a week still raged today – surging towards Grabouw to the east, and causing the evacuation of another upmarket housing estate.

The City of Cape Town’s fire services received grateful praise today for their ongoing efforts after saving dozens of homes in the Wedderwill and Knorhoek estates in the past 48 hours.

“They have done the most phenomemal job of protecting us. These guys are world class,” said resident and a member of the local fire protection association, Max Ellwood.

“Nobody got hurt, and no property was damaged. It was a hell of a close thing – a miracle.”

But despite the fire-fighters’ best efforts, the fire last night headed off on several new fronts – including up into the Hottentots Holland mountains, where it could be seen burning peaks a kilometre above sea level throughout the night.

Several kilometres to the east, the fire also continued to threaten Sir Lowry’s Pass village, and the High Rising estate at its south-eastern border.

A number of residents had evacuated the estate by this morning as the fire burnt kilometres of gum trees which line the railway line which climbs up to Sir Lowry’s Pass.

To the east, the fire which crested the mountains alongside the pass into the Elgin Valley had by this morning reached pine plantations above Grabouw, and was being fought by fire-fighters from the Overberg municipality.

To the north of the Helderberg Basin, Barry Humby of Lourensford Estate, which has borne the brunt of the past three weeks’ fires, said that they were continuing to monitor the area around the farm’s timber mill, which nearly went up in smoke on Sunday night.

“There was a wall of flame that came from Vergelegen. I had people running for their lives to get out of there,” he said.

Humby said a few hectares of vineyards and orchards had been scorched by the flames after windbreak lines of trees had caught fire, but that the vineyards and orchards themselves had been saved.

However, Humby said they were now anxious about a strong south-easter predicted for Saturday.

Humby said the fire burning on top of the Hottentots Holland mountains today was entirely unreachable by land, and had to be waterbombed by helicopter.

Firefighters also battled for more than eight hours yesterday to contain a veld fire that had been raging in Strandfontein near Ottery. Fire and Rescue Services dispatched firefighters to the area near the Ottery Fire Station around 2pm yesterday but had to request additional assistance because of the enormity of the blaze.

By 10pm a total of 10 fire trucks were still at the scene to help douse the flames.

Monica Pypers, spokeswoman at the control centre, said Strandfontein Road had to be closed to traffic because heavy smoke that had blanketed the area caused poor visibility for motorists.

She said no people, animal or structures were in danger.

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