175 firefighters win battle to save Franschhoek, but the war goes on
The usual convoy of buses ferrying tourists from one wine farm to another in Franschhoek was upstaged by a fleet of firefighting vehicles and helicopters on Tuesday.
The vehicles stationed themselves beneath the Huguenot Monument at the foot of the Franschhoek Pass, which has been closed since Monday.
A crew of 175 firefighters and support staff are tackling a blaze in the Hottentots Holland, Jonkershoek and Limietberg nature reserves, near Theewaterskloof dam.
After struggling to control the blaze, firefighters from Cape Winelands municipality and Working on Fire were able to prevent the flames from crossing the mountain towards Franschhoek.
#FranschhoekFire update— Working on Fire (@wo_fire) February 19, 2019
Currently 175 ground crew members from both CWDM, CapeNature & Working on Fire fighting the fire, presently there is no threat to property. Aerial support has been activated, with five helicopters doing waterdrops in co-ordination with the ground crews pic.twitter.com/5a9R3scyit
Cape Winelands interim fire commander Jaco Thuynsma said while they had managed to stop the fire from spreading towards buildings or vineyards, they were still wary of changing wind conditions and the hot, dry conditions.
"We are playing a waiting game now," said Thuynsma. "We are glad that our efforts this morning were successful and we consider the fire to be under control, but we must pay attention to any changes that may occur."
Some Franschhoek residents evacuated their horses amid the heavy descending smoke, although Thuynsma said that no evacuation directive had been given.
[UPDATE] Franschhoek fire— Stellenbosch Municipality (@StellMun) February 19, 2019
The Stellenbosch Municipality has dispatched a senior officer to Franschhoek to assist in the Unified Command. Crews from Stellenbosch will be dispatched and directed at their command if needed. pic.twitter.com/9SWUvpXcOW
"I can understand that locals might want to move their horses to safety away from the smoke, but there is no mandate for evacuations at this time"” he said.
Resident Francois Conradie said the flames had come extremely close to a property where he keeps pigs and cows. "We removed two horses from the paddocks this morning but it’s merely a precaution. We're sitting here waiting to see if anything happens but the firefighters seem to be doing a good job," he added.
Henrietta Brock from Winelands Fire Protection Association said she expected the firefighting effort to continue throughout Tuesday night.