In­tense fight con­tains fires

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - News - Gareth Wil­son wilsong@ti­soblack­

Most of the Gar­den Route fires are un­der con­trol de­spite flare­ups in some ar­eas.

That was the word on Fri­day fol­low­ing an in­tense week in which 600 fire­fight­ers from sev­eral dis­tricts across the Gar­den Route pulled to­gether to fight the blazes.

At some stages dur­ing the week, 23 fires were burn­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously in dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the Gar­den Route.

By Fri­day morn­ing, the sit­u­a­tion was nor­mal­is­ing, with six fires be­ing mon­i­tored.

Gar­den Route Dis­trict Municipality spokesper­son Her­man Pi­eters said an as­sess­ment was still un­der way to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the dam­age, but an es­ti­mated 65,000 hectares of land had been burnt.

In ad­di­tion, hun­dreds of peo­ple were dis­placed from small towns while 19 homes were gut­ted, 16 par­tially de­stroyed, and nine peo­ple were killed.

Pi­eters said the cur­rent fires and flare-ups were in the De Vlugt and Karatara area as well as dif­fer­ent ar­eas in Ge­orge.

In De Vlugt, Pi­eters said, there was a long ac­tive fire line when the fire jumped Dubells Road to the north, mak­ing a Ushape. “Chop­pers could not do wa­ter drops due to smoke con­di­tions ear­lier.”

Pi­eters said com­mu­ni­ca­tion with teams in the De Vlugt area was a ma­jor is­sue prompt­ing teams to be sent to the blaze to pro­vide com­mu­ni­ca­tion sup­port.

“A mo­bile re­peater from Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vices is also near the scene to as­sist with ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” he said. “Fire­fight­ers are safe be­cause the fire moved past the sawmill.”

In the Ge­orge area, fire­fight­ers were still mon­i­tor­ing the Seven Passes and Plan­ta­tion Road area for flare-ups.

Non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion Rebuild Eden mem­ber Les­ley Lang­ham said they had been work­ing around the clock.

“We are hous­ing sev­eral peo­ple who are still at the halls,” she said.

“Ei­ther their homes were de­stroyed or the com­mu­nity they live in is not safe enough to re­turn.”

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