Fire ravages Simonstown

CHOKED UP: A resident moves through thick smoke past a home destroyed in a runaway veld fire in Simonstown yesterday. Many residents had to be evacuated as thick smoke filled the area. Picture: EPA
CHOKED UP: A resident moves through thick smoke past a home destroyed in a runaway veld fire in Simonstown yesterday. Many residents had to be evacuated as thick smoke filled the area. Picture: EPA

Firefighters battle to control blaze as residents flee homes

IN scenes reminiscent of the destructive fires that swept across the Cape Peninsula in March, dozens of residents fled their homes yesterday with only their pets, passports and the clothes on their backs as flames licked at their properties in Simonstown.

Several houses and six holiday chalets in the popular Oatlands Holiday Village were destroyed by the veld fire that has raged for two days.

Residents of Murdock Valley, Froggy Pond, Runciman Heights, Harbour Heights and Simon’s Bay Estate had to be evacuated as firefighters battled to save their homes.

Many residents had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

This is the biggest in a series of veld fires across the South Peninsula over the past two weeks, marking the start of the Cape’s fire season.

The season is officially from December to April, but an extremely dry winter and strong southeasterly winds have been blamed for the earlier start.

Yesterday, firefighters from the Fire and Rescue Service, Table Mountain National Park, Working on Fire and the navy battled the blaze, which started on Wednesday on the mountain slopes behind the town.

Cape Town Fire Services spokesman Theo Layne said three helicopters water-bombed the blaze in areas inaccessible to ground crews.

Simonstown High School pupils were let out early as dense smoke covered the seaside town, roads were closed and traffic diverted.

Resident Sue Adler, whose house deck caught alight, said she was in shock.

“I’m so lucky that there was a fire truck in my road when the deck was set on fire by a burning ember,” she said.

“My house is covered in wooden doors and the whole thing would have gone up in flames.

“A few doors down, a neighbour’s house burnt down completely,” Adler said.

Cape Town Disaster Management’s Charlotte Powell said emergency shelters were being set up at the Simonstown and Fish Hoek municipal halls and at the Simonstown Country Club.

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA Wildlife Unit was called after reports of buck, deer and other wildlife in residential areas. But poor visibility hampered the search for injured and distressed animals.

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