92 blazes hit South Penin­sula in 4 weeks

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.