Eastern Cape teams help fight Cape Town inferno

Rescue personnel battle the heat at Noordhoek Manor old age home. Teams from Stutterheim assisted in the fire to control the Cape Town fires
Rescue personnel battle the heat at Noordhoek Manor old age home. Teams from Stutterheim assisted in the fire to control the Cape Town fires

SCORES of Eastern Cape firefighters, who “performed exceptionally well”, were at the forefront of fighting the massive fires which raged around Cape Town and its southern peninsula this week.

More than 2 000 people were deployed to fight the fires which started in Muizenberg on Sunday and ultimately affected 5 500ha of land.

While the fires were officially brought under control by late yesterday, a number of Eastern Cape firefighters were still stationed at hotspots in the affected Cape areas.

The majority of the Eastern Cape firefighters were from the Stutterheim area, where the firemen were trained as part of the Working On Fire group.

The group recruits firefighters from marginalised communities and trains them in fire awareness and education, prevention and fire suppression skills, after which they are deployed to form veld and forest fire fighting ground crews.

Wildfires cost the South African economy billions of rand annually.

Greater Stutterheim Fire Protection Association officer Thinus Botha said yesterday his organisation had been indirectly involved in the Cape fires, but confirmed three Working on Fire (WOF) teams from the greater Stutterheim area – which falls under the Amahlathi Local Municipality – had been deployed to Cape Town.

“Another two teams were placed on standby, while teams from Hogsback were also placed on standby.” Each team was made up of 22 people.

Botha said the firefighters were experts and welltrained to fight vegetation fires. WOF media spokesman Linton Rensburg, who is from Port Elizabeth, said a total of 250 WOF firefighters from four provinces around the country, had helped fight the fires.

“The 250 people included Eastern Cape firefighters.

“They performed exceptionally well. The fires have all been brought under control, but some of these fighters are still on the fire lines,” he said.

The fires, which are believed to have been started by a discarded cigarette, caused an estimated R5-million to Table Mountain infrastructure. Thirteen private properties were affected and 500 people were evacuated over the five days that the fires raged.

Two million litres of water were dropped in about 2 000 water drops and bombings on the fire, which also saw 26 aircraft collectively raking up 198 hours of flying and R2.4-million in flying costs, to combat the fires.

Just one fire fighter from Cape Town was treated for burn wounds, while 52 residents in one affected area were treated for smoke inhalation.

-Shaun Gillham

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