Fire out ‘but flare-ups pose a threat’

Fire out ‘but flare-ups pose a threat’

30 December 2009

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South Africa — The fire between Agulhas and Pearly Beach near Gansbaai has been extinguished, but firefighters have warned that there is still a chance of flare-ups which would pose a serious threat to nearby homes.

One man, a farm worker who was admitted to hospital after trying to put out a fire, has died.

The blaze started on Christmas Eve and strong winds drove it rapidly across the mountain and beachside.

The Overstrand fire department said the blaze had destroyed about 50 000 hectares of veld and several buildings.

Many residents of Die Dam, near Pearly Beach, said they were no longer able to sleep peacefully after a series of flare-ups near their homes.

“I’ve been told I have to move in case my house gets caught in a fire, but I can’t just leave,” said Die Dam resident Rony Barends.

“This has been my home for 20 years and holds so many precious memories.”

She tearfully told the Cape Argus how she had been forced to flee her home when the fire flared up less than 10m from the building.

“I was so scared. I grabbed my grandchild and nephew and just ran towards the sea where we would be safe.

“I have never been so terrified in my life.”

Barends, like many other residents of Die Dam, was warned to evacuate her home in case of a fire. But they returned once the danger had passed, saying they would rather try to fight the fire than let their homes be destroyed.

The Overstrand fire department said the worst was over, but they, too, were wary of new flare-ups.

“We are optimistic about the situation and believe the fire has been extinguished. However, we are well aware of the dangers posed by any remaining traces of the fire and will continue to monitor the area,” said Overstrand fire chief Riaan Jacobs.

Meanwhile, the Overstrand fire department extinguished a second fire in the mountains above Hermanus.

The blaze reportedly started at 5pm on Monday and destroyed an estimated 50ha before being put out at 7.30 last night.

No property damage was reported.

Jacobs said that although his men had been exhausted from fighting the Die Dam fire, the weather had been in their favour because the wind had not been strong enough to start a large blaze in the Hermanus mountains.

“The wind plays a major factor in any fire- and particularly in this area.

“A simple change in wind conditions and the fire could have caused as much damage as the one near Die Dam.”

The fire department has warned the public to be vigilant and to immediately notify them of a fire, no matter how small the flames may seem.

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