R60 million Somerset West wildfires 'twice as destructive' as huge Peninsula blaze

09 January 2017 - 19:55 By Aron Hyman

A fire raging in mountains near Somerset West has been twice as destructive as the large fire that ravaged the southern Cape Peninsula two years ago.

Burnt mountainsides pictured yesterday from the helicopter that took City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith, minister of co-operative governance Des van Rooyen and Western Cape MEC for local government Anton Bredell on an inspection of the Somerset West fire.
Burnt mountainsides pictured yesterday from the helicopter that took City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith, minister of co-operative governance Des van Rooyen and Western Cape MEC for local government Anton Bredell on an inspection of the Somerset West fire.
Image: City of Cape Town

The cost of the fire was put at R60 million yesterday by City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.

  • Firemen rush to combat mountain firesIt's a race against time as fire-fighters were moved in by helicopter yesterday to still-burning Western Cape mountain peaks outside Somerset West. 

This is R10 million more than last week’s estimate and comes after the fire — which was all but extinguished — flared up again.

Last night it was raging on the upper slopes of the Hottentots Holland mountains. “On Thursday we told you the fire was 99% under control.

That 1% ran away from us‚ and added additional damage and has kept us busy from Thursday until now‚” said Smith.

  • NSRI ‘wades’ in on Cape firesThe NSRI Gordon’s Bay rescue volunteers have shifted to a new terrain – from the freezing sea to the raging blazes in the Western Cape. 

He was addressing a media briefing in Strand with minister of co-operative governance Des van Rooyen and Western Cape MEC for local government Anton Bredell. Earlier‚ the trio took a “bumpy” helicopter ride in high winds over the 10 000 hectares of burnt land.

Van Rooyen said his department would assist in formulating stricter legislation to help local government to prevent people from starting fires. Smith said the scale of the burnt area made the fire “doubly as destructive as the South Peninsula fire” two years ago.

“It is true that many more properties were at risk there but this has destroyed many more structures and will probably do economically much more damage than that fire‚” he said.

Smith said they were investigating whether the fire was caused with malicious intent and welcomed Van Rooyen’s calls for stricter legislation. He said they were willing to offer a reward for information that could aid their investigation.

The city council deputy director for fire brigade services‚ Etienne du Toit‚ said that at the height of last week's fire on Tuesday firefighters were dealing with 124 other fires across Cape Town.

“Since Tuesday we've had 629 fires that the city has actively dealt with. The 2015 to 2016 season we had 1700 more fires than the previous year‚ and 2016 to 2017 is still being calculated but it looks on par with that figure‚” said Du Toit.

- TMG Digital/The Times

X