Far south fires started deliberately, says SANParks

A helicopter scoops water from Kalk Bay Harbour on Wednesday January 17 after the slopes on Boyes Drive above Kalk Bay caught alight. Picture Nigel Riley.

A fire that destroyed almost 73 hectares of veld on Boyes Drive above Kalk Bay last week was set with malicious intent, according to South African National Parks (SANParks)

The fire, which started around 11.30am, on Wednesday January 17, was contained at 9.45pm by more than 115 firefighters, management staff, three Huey helicopters, an AT 802 air tractor bomber, and a spotter plane, according to SANParks spokesperson Lauren Clayton.

City Fire and Rescue spokesman Jermaine Carelse said the fire had been between Old Boyes Drive and Clairvaux Road in Kalk Bay.

The helicopters had water-bombed the areas inaccessible to ground crews, and Table Mountain National Park had deployed ground crews to assist in firefighting efforts, he said.

Ms Clayton said that from Monday January 1 to Thursday January 18, the park had seen a notable increase in fire incidents and had responded to 22 fires in January.

A concerning pattern had emerged with most of the recent fires occurring in the southern section of the park, which included the Kalk Bay, Ocean View and Redhill areas, as well as in the north of the park, in the Signal Hill and Pipe Track areas, she said,

Fires in those areas could pose a significant risk to communities living next to the park, particularly with the hot temperatures and strong wind conditions currently being experienced, she said.

Investigations by Environmental Wildfire Services, she said, had found that three major fires in the last month had been started with malicious intent.

In addition to the Kalk Bay fire, investigators believe that the fire that started in Slangkop around 5.15pm on Thursday January 18 was also done with malicious intent.

Preliminary reports, she said, suggested the use of dry cut alien vegetation, potentially ignited with a cigarette lighter.

Another fire believed to have been started deliberately was the one between Pinehaven and Da Gama Park, also on Thursday January 18. It spread towards Scarborough at about 11.30pm.

“Current indicators strongly suggest that the Pinehaven fire was ignited with malicious intent. Further investigation is under way,” said Ms Clayton.

In December, firefighters battled several fires on the mountain slopes above Simon’s Town that spread to surrounding areas.

Ms Clayton asked the public to continue to be vigilant and report any fires or suspicious activity immediately.

Information in the form of pin locations, photographs and/or video clips of the early stages of any fire occurring within the park is very valuable for an investigation into the cause of the fire.

The public are urged not to make fires, even in designated areas, when wind conditions are very strong, due to the risk of fires spreading. Fires and illegal activity in the park can be reported to the emergency number at 086 110 021 or to the Fish Hoek fire station at 021 400 7111, the Simon’s Town fire station at 021 400 3908 or the Kommetjie Road fire station at 021 444 0111.