Winds cause fire chaos all around

Over 100 structures burnt to the ground in Hillview, Lavender Hill, leaving over 400 families destitute.

Devastating fires have left hundreds homeless and without Christmas cheer across the city.

The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service responded to over 1 000 incidents between Monday December 18 and Tuesday December 26 and vegetation fires accounted for 65% of all incidents.

Over 400 Hillview residents in Lavender Hill lost their homes and possessions on Christmas Eve where a fire broke out at the informal settlement. In the same incident three firefighters were injured while trying to extinguish the fire.

JP Smith, the City’s Mayco member for safety and security, said the situation was compounded by a persistent south-easterly wind, with two warnings issued by the South African Weather Service for damaging winds. “Apart from the massive fires in Simon’s Town and Glencairn, the Fire Service was also called on to deal with large vegetation fires in Melkbosstrand and Ottery.”

There was also a vegetation fire at Youngsfield Military Base in Wynberg and numerous informal structure fires. A building fire in Woodstock is still being monitored more than 48 hours later, due to the nature of the materials in one of the affected buildings, which is a recycling plant.

“We know that there is an increase in fires over the warmer months, but the scale of it over this festive season has simply been staggering. And, while the weather has been a contributing factor, we can’t lose sight of the fact that many fires do start as a result of human error or negligence.

Hillview resident Kaylene Fredericks watches as a firefighter doses the flames at her structure.

“Our staff have worked tirelessly – the firefighters, but also Disaster Risk Management and the enforcement services who provide support with road closures, crowd control, evacuations and more.”

Mr Smith said it had been one of the longest hauls in recent memory, and it is not over: “I want to ask the public to please do their bit to ease the load, but not just in terms of fire safety… let’s all work together to ensure that what remains of the festive season is as safe as possible for all involved.”

Three firefighters were injured at the Hillview blaze on Sunday December 24.

There have also been more than 400 arrests in the last week and City law enforcement agencies recorded 65 765 transgressions while the Traffic Services recorded 34 320 speeding offences, issued 24 333 fines for various traffic violations, impounded 225 vehicles and executed 1 532 warrants of arrest.