CT Fires: Simon’s Town

The throb of the helicopter rotors cut through the air early on Thursday morning and alerted the anxious residents to news that the fire continued to burn on the mountain slopes above Simon’s Town.  In the clear light of day, the scene of devastation in the immediate vicinity was sobering let alone the full extent of it. The fire is believed to have started over the mountains in Kommetjie and it’s path of destruction has consumed many hectacres across the Southern Peninsula including the Wildland Urban Interface affecting Da Gama Park, Red Hill, Glencairn having reached Simon’s Town on Wednesday afternoon (11 January).

A change in the wind direction was expected and there is a worry that flare-ups will occur.  Up to this point, one house and a garden shed were destroyed while six other homes, partially damaged.  Considering the terrible conditions and the driving force of the wind it is remarkable that more homes weren’t lost and a credit of the City’s Emergency services as well as the volunteer fire-fighting crews for their vigilance and tenacity (see note below).

For more information  – http://bit.ly/2inuPf6

The following noted in the above link:

“The NSRI also listed the emergency services who were deployed to fight the fires along with the NSRI teams:

  • Community services
  • Neighbourhood watch teams
  • SA National Parks rangers
  • Table Mountain National Park rangers
  • SPCA
  • City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management
  • Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services
  • Working on Fire
  • Volunteer Wild Fire Services
  • Fire helicopters
  • 22 Squadron of the SA Air Force with 2 Oryx helicopters
  • The SA Navy (including the Navy’s ships fire fighting teams)
  • Western Cape Government Health Emergency Medical Services
  • Cape Medical Response
  • Community Medics
  • ER24 ambulance services
  • Law enforcement
  • Cape Town Traffic Services
  • SA Police Services
  • Scores of members of the public who joined in todays effort and the fantastic community response.”

17 thoughts on “CT Fires: Simon’s Town

  1. This is not your first post on fire in Simon’s town so I gather you live close by?
    I hope you are all safe and ok. Very impressive photostory, Liz.

  2. Very close to those homes! How scary for them.
    I am curious about the natural history of this area. Is it like the American West where periodic fires impacted the ecology and species adapted to and are dependent on it?

    1. The emergency services did a terrific job in saving homes, all praise to them! You’re correct in thinking the fynbos vegetation ecology is fire dependent – ideally every 15 years. The biodiversity and loss of flora species is a real problem. As the case with an expanding urban edge encroaching into the natural areas of the Table Mountain National park, the wildland interface is vulnerable. The City maintains firebreaks and is supposed to do prescribed burns. Citizens also need to do more in defending their properties and clearing deadwood, brush and overgrown vegetation. Invasive alien vegetation is also an ongoing problem. We’re being warned that with climate change this will become more challenging.

      1. My son lives in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in CA and there are all sorts of ordinances about brush removal and treatment of outdoor camp fires. It is serious business!

  3. This is very sad – as are the comments made by Lindsay Maasdorp on News24. Fortunately, nature has a way of regaining a balance. People are not always as resilient.

  4. Your images are heartbreaking Liz … so much has been burnt down and it must be devastating for the resident whose home was destroyed! I’m sure you must have been quite worried, living as you do so close to the fire in Simon’s Town. The baboons have also been affected by the fires … according to the official City of Cape Town’s official assessment report, the Waterfall troop have lost 30% of the natural vegetation in their home range, the Kommetjie troop have lost 40%, sadly, the worst affected was the Da Gama troop, who have lost 80% of the vegetation in their home range, but the CoCT estimate there is still enough vegetation and water available for them all.

    1. After the previous fire in Nov 2015 which surrounded our house on all sides, we were more than anxious – the smoke was so thick. We were lucky it didn’t spread this far, but we felt for the people whose homes were at risk and of course the fleeing wildlife on the mountains. It’s going to be tough for the Da Gama troop; there may be bulbs and fynbos in the Red Hill section, but the majority of the vegetation was alien towards the navy section. Sad to read of the female juvenile death – her injuries were bad and she was left to suffer. We’ll never know the cost to the wildlife – the reptiles, buck, insects and all the small critters, mice etc. The flora may regenerate but if the fires are too frequent the fauna must be heavily depleted. Worrying!

  5. I guess the fires will continue to be a problem where homes are built in an area ecologically designed to respond to periodic burning? In Spain friends that owned a finca with quite a lot of land told me that part of the problem for the increase in fires was caused by people fencing off their land: traditionally goatherders would have roamed the area with their flocks that would have eaten much of the scrubby vegetation and kept it clearer. I hope you get your rain soon if not arrived yet. Stay safe!

    1. Yes that is correct, the urban edge here has intruded into the wildland, though the City maintains firebreaks in most areas, the Table Mountain Reserve is the heart of the peninsula. The fires have become numerous and frequent and sadly arson is suspected and the fynbos ecology suffers through too frequent burning. Adding to the frequency is the highly flammable alien vegetation which burns at a higher temperature than the local fynbos. I was interested to read your comments on the goatherders and the effect that the goats had in keeping the vegetation down. Makes me think that there could certainly have been a better ‘maintenance’ of vegetation when buck species and other herbivores roamed freely throughout the Cape area before urban development. Our winter rains hopefully will come in May – the dam levels are down to 38% and it’s reckoned that the metropolitan has only enough water till mid-May. Precarious situation!

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