Quick-think­ing fire­fighter eases the pain

Recog­nises photo in blaz­ing home

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NOLOY­ISO MTEMBU and JAN CRONJE

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.

‘For­tu­nately, he

PIC­TURES: LEON LESTRADE

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.

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