Intense fire season experienced in the western cape

Intense fire season experienced in the western cape

03 March 2017

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South Africa —  The Western Cape has experienced one of the worst fire seasons on record and it is expected to be an extended fire season as there is a predicted delay in the start of the next rain season. On 2 March 2017, Fire and Rescue International spoke to Colin Deiner, chief director, disaster management and fire brigade services, Western Cape Government. He said, “Since the start of the fire season on 1 November 2016, there have been 2 000 air operations, much more than ever before. Although the fire season has not been incident free, it has been managed well. The country can be proud of the planning, pilots, crews and management involved.”

City of Cape Town

Various fires within City of Cape Town had crews working around the clock have been contained or extinguished, authorities said on 28 February 2017. Liezl Moodie, administrative officer, City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service said, “The Hout Bay fire started on 22 February 2017. The incident was closed on 28 February 2017. It started on the Hout Bay side of the mountain then spread to the Sandy bay side and burned along the ridge. Initial response was three fire engines a group of seasonal fire fighters from the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service, assisted by National Parks and Working on Fire (WoF) and various volunteer wildfire services. Aerial support was utilised. Additional resources were requested and dispatched as the incident escalated.”

“On 26 February 2017, City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service responded to a large vegetation fire at 23h57. Seven fire fighting vehicles on scene, with a total of 27 fire fighters, assisted by nature conservation. The cause of the fire is undetermined at this stage. The fire was extinguished on 1 March 2017 at 01h04. ”

“On 27 February 2017 at 12h57, another fire in Atlantis burnt through an extensive area of vegetation, wood and iron structures in the nearby vicinity. The response comprised of four fire engines, city fire fighters, assisted by City Bulk Water. In Kensington on the same day there was a large reeds and vegetation fire. Property was in danger but the danger was averted. Response comprised of four water tankers and five fire engines. The fire started at 12h56 and was extinguished at 20h20 on the same day,” concluded Moodie.

Ashton and Bonnievale

On 24 February 2017, crews were battling a fire that had been raging in the Ashton and Bonnievale region. Shortly after nightfall, the Hot Shot Team, appointed by the Western Cape Government, was deployed to a new section within a game farm. The Type 1 crew spent the night in the area to monitor and control the line, navigating their way through difficult Karoo shrub land. The crews were supporting Cape Winelands.

Tradouw Pass and Barrydale

On 2 March 2017 at 08h00, Deiner said, “Tradouw Pass is still closed. The Denel fire has been contained to their property since this morning. They are battling it on their own now.”

The incident report stated, “Suurbraak Barrydale fire update: The fire jumped the Tradouw Pass road at 17h30. Although a setback, it is not that critical given firebreaks and young veld on the Grootvadersbos side. Several structural threats dealt with on northern slopes during the afternoon but now under control. North Eastern corner near Barrydale still have two structures close to fire but resources are deployed. Wind aspect change to easterly and then south easterly expected during the night towards tomorrow. That will bring the southern slopes into play with risks to the plantations above Buffeljachs and Swellendam. Teams will remain out during the night.”


The wildfire has spread from Barrydale along Tradouw Pass and towards Buffeljagsrivier. Dense smoke, long fire lines, multiple risk areas made communication difficult and limited the sharing of mitigation efforts. The wildfire was pushed by a South Easter throughout the evening. Landowners along the R62, to the west of Barrydale, managed to fight the fire along the bottom of the mountain on their properties. An incident command system (ICS) team has been formed between fire and rescue, CapeNature and Grootvadersbosch Conservancy.

Fire fighters and land users were executing a joint plan to fight the fire. Plans were put in place to mitigate high risks, including possible burnouts. Multiple resources, including ground teams and vehicles, were deployed along the perimeter of the fire. The use of aerial resource is limited to trooping of fire fighters due to accessibility and weather conditions Tradouw Pass will be monitored and closed for periods should safety be of concern.

Pringle Bay

On 20 February 2017, a wildfire raging in Pringle Bay gutted one home on, the Overstrand Fire Brigade said. The house was not close to the town and no additional buildings were currently in danger. No one was injured, officer, Siphiwe Joja told media. Overstrand Municipality posted on its Twitter profile the R44 between Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond had been reopened to traffic. Three other wildfires had been reported in the Western Cape in Kylemore, La Motte and Banghoek.

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