Mountain fires flares in Paarl

Mountain fires flares in Paarl

8 March 2009

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South Africa —

A mountain fire raging in the Paarl area flared again on Sunday, said a spokesperson for the Drakenstein fire department.

However, firefighters had prevented any loss of property, said assistant fire chief Dereck Peceur.

He said the fire started at 8pm on Wednesday in the Voortrekker Camp in the central part of the Paarl, on the mountain side.

Since then it had destroyed in excess of 5000 hectares of mainly fynbos plantation and, to a lesser extent, vineyards, with orchards also suffering damage.

Although Peceur suspected human error was behind the blaze. He attributed this to negligence rather than arson.

The fire flared at 4am on Sunday and again shortly before noon on the south side of the mountain, in the vicinity of the Taal Monument, but was brought under control with the help of water bombing from a Working on Fire helicopter.

Peceur said there were constantly 20 to 30 fire-fighters on the ground, assisted by parks department workers.

They also had to deal with other fires in the town, such as the blaze which started in a school storage room on Sunday morning.

He said flare-ups of the mountain fire were usually in hot-spots or where roots were smouldering under the surface of the ground, and were fanned by wind.

Wind had not been a problem yet – unlike in Cape Town where wind speeds of up to 140 km/h were being measured on Sunday – but it was starting to pick up shortly before noon.

Depending on the intensity and direction, it could lead to the spread of the fire, Peceur said.

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