Baakens Valley blaze a threat to homes, school

Estelle Ellis

A RAGING bush fire in Port Elizabeth's Baakens Valley briefly threatened homes in Fifth Avenue, Walmer, yesterday.

A total of 17 fires raged throughout the city, with five of them extinguished by last night.

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said the fire with the greatest potential to cause damage to property was the Baakens Valley blaze, which roared up the valley threatening homes in Fifth Avenue.

The Settlers Park Primary School was also warned at one stage that the fire was heading its way.

Labans said firefighters had been worried about the large number of pine trees on the border of the reserve as the pine cones act as "fire-lighters".

Concerned members of the public and nature conservation guards had their hands full trying to rescue tortoises from the blaze.

Baakens Valley Wildlife and Environment Society conservation officer Morgan Griffiths said the fire, thought to have been caused by a discarded cigarette butt, started near one of the paths in the reserve.

"Unfortunately, the tortoises really love that slope [leading up to Fifth Avenue]. We also have an unusually large number of baby tortoises in the park at the moment."

Residents in Fordyce Road, Water Road and Fifth Avenue were warned that snakes, dassies and tortoises might find their way into their gardens as a result of the fire.

"We want to ask that you shoo them back into the valley or, if they are injured, that you get in touch with us so that we can come and help them," Griffiths said.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality spokesman Kupido Baron said it was "bush fire season" in the city.

Twelve of the fires were still burning late yesterday afternoon, but all of them were under control.

The fires that were still burning were in the Kraaifontein area near St Albans, Fitchards Road in Rocklands, the Wedgewood Golf Club in Old Cape Road, Overbaakens, Victoria Drive, the Walmer Country Club, Maranatha Children's Home in Southdene, Arcadia, Salsoneville, Extension 29 (Rocky Ridge), Target Kloof and First Avenue in Newton Park.

Call Wildlife on 082-332-3660 or Baakens Reserve community officer December Goduka on 082-416-4414.