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Tue May 24 13:55:19 SAST 2016

Kids starting Cape fires

SHANAAZ EGGINGTON | 11 January, 2016 06:39
Firefighting helicopters drop water on a blaze on Cape Town's Signal Hill that was fanned by strong winds. Other fires broke out on Devil's Peak, Ocean View, Simon's Town and Red Hill at the weekend.
Image by: RUVAN BOSHOFF

Arsonists started some of the blazes that have ripped through the Western Cape's southern peninsula, destroying hectares of plantation.

Several fires that broke out on Devil's Peak, Ocean View, Signal Hill, Simon's Town and Red Hill this weekend are being investigated.

Since the start of the fire season in November, arsonists have been linked to 40 veld fires.

Rob Erasmus, of Enviro Wildfire Services, an NGO contracted by SANParks to investigate fires in Table Mountain National Park and on other SANParks land, said this amounts to between 30% and 40% of all vegetation fires.

Enviro staff have found evidence of fire-setting at a number of veld fires in the Glencairn, Soetwater, Simon's Town, Red Hill Road, Ocean View and City Bowl areas.

No one has been arrested.

The City of Cape Town has asked Enviro to investigate the fires, fanned by a howling south-easter on Saturday night, on Signal Hill and Devil's Peak.

"Every single fire has to be investigated to determine if it occurred naturally, accidentally or was started maliciously," Erasmus said.

"Only then will we be able to map and track patterns and identify more suspects."

Erasmus said that in the past it had been difficult to get the city to investigate and for the police to register cases.

"The police have now agreed to open cases when malicious fires have occurred. They will either make use of their own staff to investigate the fires, or use our services."

Fires continued to rage across the peninsula yesterday.

Cape Town's safety and security director, Richard Bosman, said the fires on Table Mountain were under control and hot spots were being monitored.

"Two fires started simultaneously on Devil's Peak and a fire was in progress at Military Road, in Tamboerskloof.

"So far there has been no damage to property, and only minor injuries to firefighters."

In Ocean View firefighters were battling to contain a fire heading towards Kommetjie.

Erasmus said Ocean View was a hot spot for maliciously set fires.

"Children are setting fires every week. Some have been caught red-handed. But the police have refused to charge the culprits so far.

"Our plane spotters have seen these kids starting fires as we desperately try to put out others."

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