Fi­re con­ti­nues to ra­ge

Suid-Kaap FORUM - - News - Il­se S­choon­raad

Bom­ber pla­nes, chop­pers and ground crews y­e­ster­day af­ter­noon con­ti­nu­ed to batt­le the de­va­sta­ting fi­re in Ver­maak­lik­heid that had de­stroy­ed eig­ht ho­mes and led to the de­ath of le­gen­da­ry c­hop­per pi­lot, Ni­co Heyns. Ac­cor­ding to the in­ci­dent com­mand te­am, 60% of the fi­re had been con­tai­ned by noon, whi­le the fi­re was still acti­ve on two flanks with se­ver­al hot­li­nes in the se­clu­ded ho­li­day vil­la­ge on the Dui­wen­hoks Ri­ver, 35km out­si­de Ri­vers­da­le. Fi­re­fig­h­ters wor­ked through the nig­ht to pro­tect pro­per­ty and y­e­ster­day se­ri­ous fla­reups we­re con­ti­nu­ous­ly batt­led in ex­tre­me he­at. Y­e­ster­day mor­ning a South A­fri­can Air For­ce Oryx he­li­cop­ter, one spot­ter pla­ne, two bom­ber pla­nes, 97 Wor­king on Fi­re (WoF) ground crew mem­bers, 30 pro­fes­si­o­nal fi­re­fig­h­ters, four Sout­hern Ca­pe Fi­re Pro­tecti­on As­so­ci­a­ti­on se­ni­or mem­bers and 10 Gou­kou Farm wa­tch mem­bers we­re batt­ling the bla­ze that star­ted on Sun­day pos­si­bly by a s­park from an e­lec­tric po­le. De­ath of a le­gend Heyns died w­hen his WoF Hu­ey c­hop­per cras­hed to the ground at 09:45 on Tu­es­day mor­ning. Ac­cor­ding to an ey­e­wit­ness, Jan Ja­cobs, Heyns had just tur­ned the c­hop­per a­round to re­fill the Bam­bi buc­ket af­ter wa­ter­bom­bing a fi­re at Os­hoek, w­hen it look­ed as though the front ro­tor ca­me un­stuck. The c­hop­per fell and Heyns died on the sce­ne. His good friend, c­hop­per pi­lot Ko­bus Crous of Mos­sel Bay He­li­cop­ters, was fig­hting the sa­me fi­re from the sky and al­so be­lie­ves the crash was due to a techni­cal pro­blem. He said Heyns was a very ca­re­ful pi­lot who ne­ver took chan­ces. Kis­hu­gu A­vi­a­ti­on, who is con­trac­ted to do a­e­ri­al fi­re­fig­hting for WoF, said the cau­se of the ac­ci­dent is unkno­wn and that the SA Ci­vil A­vi­a­ti­on Aut­ho­ri­ty is in­ves­ti­ga­ting the ac­ci­dent. The new nor­mal C­li­ve A­fri­ca, di­rec­tor of di­sas­ter ma­na­ge­ment at Gar­den Rou­te Dis­trict Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty said fi­res such as the one at Ver­maak­lik­heid is our new nor­mal. “Espe­ci­al­ly the Hes­se­qua a­rea is very suscep­ta­ble to wild fi­res. The a­rea has lots of na­tu­ral fu­el and re­si­dents will ha­ve to in­vest in fi­re bre­aks and ot­her pre­ven­ta­ti­ve me­a­su­res.” The Hes­se­qua Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty un­der the le­a­ders­hip of Ma­yor Grant Ridd­les has ma­de gre­at stri­des in es­ta­blis­hing its own fi­re ser­vi­ces in the a­rea. Ridd­les is al­so ex­pecting the de­li­very of a brand new 4x4 fi­re en­gi­ne in No­vem­ber to furt­her rein­for­ce their cur­rent fi­re­fig­hting vehi­cles. By y­e­ster­day noon, 1000s of hec­ta­re of sus­tai­na­ble har­vest Fyn­bos and wild­li­fe gra­zing had been lost and sig­ni­fi­cant da­ma­ge to fen­ces and ot­her in­fra­struc­tu­re we­re re­cor­ded. The com­mand te­am than­ked the po­li­ti­cal and o­pe­ra­ti­o­nal arms of the E­den and O­ver­berg Dis­trict Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties; Hes­se­qua, Ge­or­ge and Mos­sel­bay Lo­cal Aut­ho­ri­ties and the Pro­vin­ci­al and Na­ti­o­nal Di­sas­ter Ma­na­ge­ment cen­tres. "A spe­ci­al no­te of thanks to the En­vi­ro Wild­fi­re Ser­vi­ces un­der the le­a­ders­hip of Rob Eras­mus. Their selfless ser­vi­ce and de­di­ca­ti­on sa­ved se­ver­al struc­tu­res the past two days."

The nig­ht sky lig­hts up as the fi­re con­ti­nues to ra­ge on Tu­es­day nig­ht. INSET: Ni­co Heyns

Wor­king on Fi­re wor­kers du­ring a short-li­ved bre­at­her.

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