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Tue Sep 23 06:20:09 SAST 2014

Fires could snuff out fynbos

NASHIRA DAVIDS | 06 December, 2012 00:46
Kogelberg Sandstone Fynbos.
Image by: Abu Shawka

IN 2006, fire-fighters battled to contain a deadly blaze on Table Mountain. Yesterday, a fire broke out in almost the same area, posing a huge risk to the precious fynbos .

Though the fire was extinguished in a few hours, thanks to five helicopters and more than 130 firefighters, Philip Prins, fire manager for Table Mountain National Park, said fynbos such as proteas needed at least several years to mature.

"We can't have fires every five or six years in the same area because we need at least 12 to 15 years for the fynbos to mature. Some of the area that was burned in 2006 burned again."

Yesterday's fire affected only 20ha, a minute area in comparison to the January 2006 fire, which claimed the life of a tourist and forced people to evacuate their homes.

Prins said it is suspected that vagrants started the fire.

The affected area of the mountain, above the Deer Park picnic area, is favoured by the homeless because there is water and they are protected from the wind.

The fire started after 1am and spread quickly because of strong winds. But, by 7.30am, it had been contained.

Fifty firefighters and volunteers were dispatched by the park.

Chief fire officer for Cape Town Ian Schnetler said 87 firefighters had been deployed .

Prins said it had been a costly exercise.

"For example, four Huey helicopters were used at R18000 an hour and flew for about three hours," he said.

In addition, a small fixed-wing aircraft flew above the helicopters to prevent air accidents.

The area will be monitored for the next two days.

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Tue Sep 23 06:20:09 SAST 2014 ::