South Africa: ‘Alien vegetation spread Simon’s Town fire’
19 April 2002
By Douglas Carew A private landowner’s failure to remove fast-burning alien vegetation intensified the firenear Simon’s Town in which a house was destroyed and several families were forcedto flee their homes. That is the view expressed in a joint statement by the Cape Peninsula National Parkand the City of Cape Town fire services department. They also said the fire, which broke out at Miller’s Point on Thursday, was not theresult of a controlled burn that went wrong. Friday’s statement followed news reports quoting Peter Muller,head of the South Peninsula administration’s fire department, as saying that the fire had been caused by national park staffwho lost control of a “controlled burn”. Two helicopters with water bombs have been helping firefighters battle the blazewhich destroyed the wooden home of Gary Coleman at Rocklands. The joint statement said this was the season for controlled burns and a successfulcontrolled burn had taken place on Trappieskop in the Kalk Bay area on Monday when the windless conditions were ideal. But the Miller’s Point fire had not been caused by a controlled burn. After the devastating fires in 2000, the City of Cape Town and the Cape PeninsulaNational Park, with the assistance of the Santam Cape Argus Ukuvuka Operation Firestop Campaign, have been implementing an invading alien removal and firebreakreparation strategy around the Table Mountain chain. Anban Padyachee, of Ukuvuka, who was at the fire, said it had been intensified bythe density of the invasive alien vegetation in the area: “The property where thewooden cottage burnt down, was heavily infested by two-metre high pines and evenlarger rooikrans and Port Jackson.” Guy Preston, head of the Working for Water Programme of the Department of Waterand Forestry, added that “this fire is the inevitable consequence of not taking action”.