Fires ravage East Cape game reserves

Gareth Wilson and Estelle Ellis

A RUNAWAY fire raced across game reserves and farms, destroying more than 1500ha of prime land on the outskirts of Grahamstown yesterday.

Weary farmers, game rangers and firefighters joined forces to fight the raging bush fire, which started as a controlled burn at 10am but flared out of control an hour later when the wind came up.

It was still burning late last night and heading towards the Alicedale road.

Clouds of thick smoke could be seen from 30km away billowing from the burning farmlands.

Lalibela, Shamwari and Bayete game reserves, Rippon’s Safari Lodge and several farms were affected as the fire jumped Salisbury Road and several dirt roads.

Groups of farm workers continued to work through the night, beating the bush and spraying water in an attempt to douse the flames.

Rippon’s Safari Lodge manager Brian Mullins – of Boet and Swaer comedy fame – said he saw a “wall of fire” rising over the ridge shortly after he was alerted to the blaze. “We tried everything to get it under control and had visions of the lodge going up in flames.

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