92 blazes hit South Peninsula in 4 weeks
ARSONISTS are being blamed for starting many of the shocking 92 fires that have hit the South Peninsula in the past four weeks, repeatedly stretching firefighting resources and causing damage worth several millions of rands.
The firefighting budget could well be exhausted before the end of the season as a result, according to South Peninsula subcouncil chairwoman Felicity Purchase, who urged residents to watch out for people “walking around the boundaries of the mountains and in open spaces”.
A number of fires were reported in the area again this week following a massive runaway blaze in Simon’s Town last week which left several homes gutted.
Eight chalets, three of which were completely destroyed at the city-owned Oatlands Holiday resort, were also damaged.
Belinda Walker, community services and special projects mayoral committee member, said it was too soon to calculate the extent of the costs.
At the beginning of March other fires burnt in the South Peninsula, with independent forensic expert David Klatzow finding two, in Scarborough and Clovelly, were probably the work of arsonists.
The city passed this information on to police..
Referring to the most recent blazes, Purchase said: “This is clearly a drive to put a burden on the (firefighting) services.”
She did not know who was behind the blazes, but said four fires were reported in different areas, including Sun Valley and Ocean View, on Tuesday. This could have been a ploy to disperse firefighters, she suggested.
The damage caused by the blazes and cost of firefighting operations was expected to run into millions.
Warnings were also posted on social media this week.
“Everyone needs to keep watch. Someone out there is lighting fires. Black Hill, Sun Valley, now Kommetjie… Keep eyes open… These guys are on a fire roll and need to be STOPPED,” a post on the group, Simon’s Town, said.
Eileen Heywood, project manager at the Simon’s Town Community Police Forum, said a fire alert had been sent to residents advising them if they saw smoke to report it to authorities immediately.
Liezl Moodie, the city’s fire and rescue spokeswoman, said since the start of November 92 vegetation fires had been reported in the South Peninsula. Areas where several blazes were reported included Ocean View, with 15 fires being reported this month, Simon’s Town, with nine fires, and Kommetjie, where there were reports of five blazes. Other fires were reported in areas including Lavender Hill, Vry- grond and Capricorn Park.
Moodie said the cause of the blazes was under investigation.
Table Mountain National Park manager Paddy Gordon said authorities were worried about fires being intentionally started around the Peninsula.
“Agencies are working together to ensure such perpetrators are caught and all legal procedures followed through and supported to ensure a successful arrest and appropriate penalties meted out.”
Gordon said vegetation around the Peninsula was prone to burn. “Fynbos is adapted to fire and will burn with a certain regularity, so we prepare for these events. However, the frequency of fires is unnaturally high and even the fynbos is negatively affected if the same areas are burnt too often.”
The cost of battling the blazes was expected to be huge.
Rob Erasmus, of the non-profit organisation Enviro Wildfire Services, was probing the causes of the recent fires. “We don’t just look at the when and why the fire was started, but who.
”There are concerns because if funding doesn’t come through the investigation won’t take place and no one will be prosecuted.”
Police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk said police had not been approached to probe the blazes.