Quick-thinking firefighter eases the pain
Recognises photo in blazing home
AN ALERT firefighter recognised people in a photograph in an empty house in the path of the Simon’s Town fire and alerted the family, who were able to save items of sentimental value before the house was destroyed.
Davey James, son-in-law of home-owner Monika SieboltBerry, said the firefighter, one of the first in the house, was a friend and recognised a photograph of James’s children on the wall. He immediately rang James to tell him of the imminent danger.
“Fortunately, he is a friend of ours and after seeing my kids and wife in the picture, he immediately called us.”
James said Siebolt-Berry, a widow in her seventies, had been out when the fire reached her three-storey home.
“She is now with us, she is holding up okay. Maybe the shock has not set in yet.”
The fire began as a blaze on the mountain above Simon’s Town and when the wind changed late on Wednesday it swept down through a gorge, destroying four homes and damaging three others. Six rondavels at a holiday resort were also damaged to various degrees, City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service Theo Lane said.
When Weekend Argus visited the area yesterday, a smell of burnt wood and smoke filled the air, with grey ash and dead tree trunks marking the path of the inferno. Some road signs and streetlight poles were damaged in Freesia Road.
A significant number of firefighters were monitoring further flare- ups yesterday afternoon.
A resident in Watsonia Road above the gorge said he had seen flames over the mountain behind his home, and quickly driven the flames faster than anyone could anticipate. “That was a strong wind, I think firefighters struggled because it was blowing in different directions,” said the home-owner.
No harm was done to his home but his neighbours below the gorge, such as SieboltBerry, were not so lucky.
James said they had managed to save some of SieboltBerry’s sentimental items. “The fire- fighters were absolutely amazing, we are grateful to them.”
A few hundred metres away, the Rocklands Centre, a Christian campsite, was also spared serious damage with only vegetation burnt. Campsite director Shaun Eason said they had evacuated a group of campers.
Yesterday Philip Prins, fire manager for Table Mountain National Park, said an initial investigation indicated the fire had been started deliberately.
● Finance MEC Ivan Meyer said the state of the fire-fighting service outside the Cape Metro was worrying.
Speaking in the Western Cape provincial legislature yesterday, he said many municipal services had equipment which had not been replaced in years.
As part of the province’s 2015 adjusted budget estimates, Meyer allocated an additional R10 million to improving firefighting capacity. He also allocated an additional R6.5m for the management of wildfires by Cape Nature.
AFTERMATH: Davey James stands in the ruins of his mother-in-law’s house in Afrikander Street, Simon’s Town, following a fire which quickly swept over the hill through a gorge on Thursday, burning everything in its path.
DEVASTATING: Firefighters keep an eye on possible outbreaks in Afrikander Road, Simon’s Town, where a raging mountain fire gutted four homes and damaged three others this week.