Cops act to secure Woodridge

Reports of looting in wake of fire that razed school buildings

Police have been sent to help secure Woodridge College amid reports that the abandoned buildings are being looted following the fire that tore through the school over the weekend.

This was revealed yesterday after metro police officials blocked access to the school over the weekend, denying entry to any non-essential personnel.

Fires at both Woodridge College and Sardinia Bay were brought under control yesterday morning, with damping down operations under way throughout the day.

Yesterday morning, firefighters walked along the Sardinia Bay and Schoenmakerskop bush-line extinguishing smouldering logs.

Small bush fires along Old Cape Road and in Hunters Retreat were also put out.

In Thornhill, which falls under the Kouga municipality, residents extinguished small, sporadic fires throughout the day. A fire at Rocklands was also put out.

However, fires in the Longmore Forest – which started last week – continued to burn.

A meeting between emergency services personnel and volunteer groups was held to discuss a way forward should the fires flare up.

Bay metro police chief Yolanda Faro said she had sent officers to patrol Woodridge to prevent looting.

Police officers were also assisting with patrols in and around the school.

Reports of looting or theft could only be confirmed when the pupils and staff were allowed back into the school, she said.

Mountain to Ocean (MTO) Forestry chief executive Lawrence Polkinghorne, who also owns the Longmore Saw Mill which burnt to the ground, said teams were still fighting fires in and around the Longmore Plantation yesterday.

“Mop-up operations are under way but some hotspot areas keep flaring up,” he said.

Polkinghorne said the fire hit the Longmore Saw Mill in the middle of last week and had destroyed at least half of the plantation. “Thousands of hectares have been burnt – more than 50% of the total plantation footprint at this stage,” he said.

Polkinghorne said while it was premature to speculate, the losses would run into hundreds of millions of rands.

The fire spread over a number of days, eventually heading to Thornhill and the Van Stadens area.

Nelson Mandela Bay fire chief Andre de Ridder said arson was not being investigated at this point.

“There are rumours [of arson] but we have no evidence to prove such,” he said.

Referring to the Van Stadens and Woodridge College fires, De Ridder said the fires had started outside the metro district.

“We effectively inherited the fires and if there was any investigation it would have to be done from the Kouga side,” he said.

The fire breached the municipal boundary last week.

Fires around Woodridge and Van Stadens were still burning yesterday afternoon, but were deep in the bush and could not be accessed on foot or by vehicle.

Kouga mayor Elza van Lingen said arson was not suspected.

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