FIGHTING exhaustion and record temperatures of more than 40°C, hundreds of firemen yesterday bravely held off a raging fire threatening homes in Cape Town’s Clovelly and St James.
Today, they enter day four of battling the blaze that has consumed about 4 000ha of land since Sunday, with no sign of abating.
While some Noordhoek residents who were evacuated on Monday returned to their homes yesterday, nervous residents in nearby Clovelly and St James were put on high alert last night as the flames crept closer to their homes.
However, Table Mountain National Park integrated fire manager Philip Prins said the fire raging in the Tokai Forest was the biggest challenge they were facing. “At the moment, most of our fire-fighting efforts are focused on containing the blaze here,” he said.
“It is burning very fiercely because of the high temperatures and old, dried out vegetation.
“We have three helicopters waterbombing this huge area stretching from the Tokai plantation right across to Constantia Nek.”
Prins said firefighters had formed a defensive line to drive the flames back, but things were going very slowly.
In addition, fires continued to rage in inaccessible parts of the mountains in Hout Bay and along Chapman’s Peak Drive.
“This fire poses no immediate threat to lives and homes, but this could change at any moment,” he said.
In addition to the three main burn areas, residents were reporting smaller fires all over the affected area. Prins dismissed reports of arson. “Only after a proper investigation has been done will we be able to say what caused the fire. Whoever says that arson is involved is speculating.”
The Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust will decide tomorrow if an alternative route for Sunday’s Cape Cycle Tour will be used.
The original route includes Chapman’s Peak and Ou Kaapse Weg, which are among the roads that are closed at the moment.
Theo Lane, spokesman for the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services, said there had been overwhelming support over the last few days.
He said the public had donated so much food that they could feed an army for a month, as well as sun block and medical supplies to treat burn wounds and diarrhoea.
There are about 250 firefighters deployed from the city, the Table Mountain National Park, Working on Fire and Volunteer Wildfire Services.
There are also many volunteers and ground crew.
Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge’s managing director, Michelle du Plessis, said the building on the slopes of Chapman’s Peak in Hout Bay had not been completely destroyed by the blaze, as initially feared.
“We are starting the cleanup process and it will be rebuilt by December,” she said.
“The guests have been completely understanding. They’ll be the first to be invited back.”
By yesterday, the 65 pensioners who had been granted refuge at the Dutch Reformed Church in Fish Hoek after being evacuated from their home for the aged, had returned home.
-Nashira Davids, Shanaaz Egginton, Reitumetse Pitso, Tanya Farber and Jerome Cornelius