South Africa

Pyrocene Cape II

‘Out-of-control’ Table Mountain fire forces UCT evacuation

‘Out-of-control’ Table Mountain fire forces UCT evacuation
The scene this morning around University of Cape Town, Sunday April 18, 2021. Maverick Insider Tim Richman

Autumn inferno erupts next to University of Cape Town, iconic Rhodes Memorial restaurant burns down

Temperatures soared to over 30 degrees Celsius as a fire broke out on the eastern flanks of Table Mountain on Sunday morning during near-windless conditions. 

Enormous smoke columns could be seen from across the city billowing into the cloud-free sky over the city’s southern suburbs and near the University of Cape Town (UCT). 


Video clip by Maverick Insider Tim Richman


According to the City of Cape Town, its fire and rescue service had been alerted to the blaze at 8.45am. 

“Fire crews were immediately dispatched to the scene, with the fire currently spreading from Rhodes Memorial toward UCT,” the City noted on its Twitter account. 


Video clip by Maverick Insider Tim Richman


A section of the tea room at Rhodes Memorial has been destroyed and people are urged not to enter the area,” it added. “More resources are currently on their way to assist. These include teams from Working on Fire and Table Mountain National Park. Three choppers are also water bombing.”

NCC Wildfires, the firefighting services contracted to South African National Parks (SANParks), reported that the vegetation fire had started above Philip Kgosana Drive in the game camp area between UCT and Hospital Bend junction. 

In the meantime, SANParks requested “all hikers within the Newlands and Rhodes Memorial area to evacuate with immediate effect. Cars parked within these sections need to be moved as a matter of urgency. 

“The fire is currently out of control and we request that all onlookers please refrain from entering the area and keep the area clear for emergency vehicles to pass.”

This is a developing story. We will add details as they emerge. DM/OBP



  • 14:10pm: UCT has confirmed on its Twitter account that “all UCT students have been evacuated from campus by emergency services support staff. We have taken them to pre-determined locations. We will continue to work with & support Sanparks & the City of Cape Town to extinguish this fire. Please stay safe first & foremost.”
  • 14:30pm: The M3 inbound between Rhodes Drive and Union Avenue as well as access roads from Woolsack Drive and Princess Anne Avenue have been closed, according to a report by TimesLIVE.
  • 15:20pm: The Western Cape noted in a statement this afternoon that “the situation is currently serious with the wildfire spreading towards sections of the University of Cape Town upper campus. According to Anton Bredell, minister of local government, environmental affairs and development planning in the Western Cape: ‘The public is urged to avoid the area and allow the authorities to do their work. The wind is slowly picking up which is a cause for concern. The City of Cape Town firefighting service as well as teams from SANParks and Working on Fire are on the scene already.’ ” He said authorities on the ground would inform all members of the public immediately should the situation get more serious.
  • 16:05pm: SANParks has confirmed on its Twitter account that “the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant has unfortunately burnt down. The fire has also spread to the veld above the University of Cape Town (UCT).”


Emergency numbers 

  • City of Cape Town emergency services landline: 021 480 7700; cellphone: 107
  • Provincial emergency number: 112


Read Daily Maverick/Our Burning Planet’s recent in-depth fire coverage on Table Mountain here:

Pyrocene Cape: Inside the furnace of Table Mountain’s fire starters

SANParks traces Oudekraal blaze to homeless camper

Cape Town’s Halloween fire ignited by ‘vagrants’ — SANParks



Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    The clip showing the chopper collecting water to douse the fire, suggests the pilots are engaged in some ‘risky’ undertaking – a heroic effort/task !

  • Coen Gous says:

    Tragedy! Yet I guess students, whom wants everything for free, will either celebrate (the free everything seeking ones), or the opposite whom will cry (the serious students despite hardships)

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options