Defend Truth


Simon’s Town blaze: Firefighters and community spirit lauded after flames kept at bay

Simon’s Town blaze: Firefighters and community spirit lauded after flames kept at bay
Water-bombing helicopters attempt to control the flames in Murdock Valley on Wednesday, 20 December. Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services worked from 7am on Tuesday to bring the blaze under control. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

The wind subsided on Wednesday evening, giving firefighting crews a chance to make inroads against the Simon’s Town fire. Locals praised the firefighting teams and community spirit.

Firefighters have been working tirelessly to keep the fire in Simon’s Town, south of Cape Town, away from residential properties, ensuring the safety of residents and animals.

The fire broke out on the mountain slopes near the town on Tuesday morning. 

simon’s town blaze

Flames explode in the air on the hill below Rocklands farm, Murdoch Valley in Simon’s Town on 20 December 2023. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

simon’s town blaze

A fire breaks out along the pathway to Rocklands farm, where firefighters attempt to get it under control. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

simon’s town blaze

Firefighters at Rocklands farm after working hard to tame the massive flames which hit the area at roughly 2.30pm on 20 December 2023. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

After moving away from residences on Wednesday morning, the fire flared up again in the afternoon above Runciman Drive and Murdock Valley. On Wednesday evening, the water-bombing helicopters were grounded for the night.

“Active firefighting efforts are ongoing in Miller’s Point and Castle Rock. Several resources have been positioned along certain roads where possible flare-ups may occur,” said the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, in an update at 8pm.

simon’s town blaze

At midday on Wednesday, firefighting helicopters began releasing water on Simon’s Kloof mountain. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

simon’s town blaze

A resident stands on their roof to capture an image of the fire damage that hit Rocklands farm and Murdock Valley. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

simon’s town blaze

The sight from Rocklands farm of the fire on the mountain above, rapidly moving across the area on 20 December 2023. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

“The wind has again subsided and this gives the ground crews valuable time to make inroads along the extended fireline,” he said.

No residential property has been damaged — apart from a derelict building — since the fire was first reported at about 7am on Tuesday. 

The blaze had been a significant challenge, with more than 200 firefighters battling it, Carelse said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Fire season — Crews battle Simon’s Town mountain fire days after devastating Dunoon inferno

Residents praised the firefighters’ efforts.

simon’s town blaze

Happy Valley Home Shelter resident Shelton Radebe said his major concern during the fire on Tuesday night was the fear of being unable to breathe in the dense smoke. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

“The fire wasn’t really bad, but we were quite assured because we were trusting the fire team,” said Shelton Radebe, a resident at Happy Valley Home Shelter in Simon’s Town.

Throughout the years, whenever there had been fires, the firefighters were always “on the ball”, and this time was no different, Radebe said.

“They did the best that they could, so we knew that the fire wasn’t going to get to us.”

The main concern of people at the shelter was the smoke, he said. “There were high chances of suffocation due to smoke inhalation.”  

Most of the people staying at the shelter were moved to the town hall, where they stayed for hours until the smoke died down, Radebe said.

Food and water

simon’s town blaze

Simon’s Town Business Association member Dane Cherry praised the enormous amount of support and donations received from the community for the city’s firefighters. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

Dane Cherry, a resident of Glencairn Heights and a member of the Simon’s Town Business Association, said, “When we heard about the fire, we immediately contacted our contacts, business associates and we opened the hall and started promoting the need for food and water.”

The Simon’s Town Business Association managed to acquire and package food for 1,000 people — firefighters and those who were helping with the fire, he said.

Firefighters had been out on the mountain since Tuesday, working in shifts, and the food had made a difference, he said.

simon’s town blaze

Simon’s Town resident Rhod McRae-Samuel, spouse of Linda McRae-Samuel, at work clearing debris on Wednesday, 20 December 2023. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

Linda McRae-Samuel, a Simon’s Town resident, said: “We heard about the fire on our WhatsApp group and we were kept updated. 

“When we saw the fire on Barnard Street [close to where we live], I must admit we started thinking that we must take the dog and fish and go.  It was really scary because it happened quite quickly.”  

Another  Simon’s Town resident, Stuart Foster, was on the mountain until the early hours of the morning helping to put the fire out.

“I come from Johannesburg — moved here six months ago — and I was very impressed with the community spirit here and the interaction between the firemen and local inhabitants that were working together,” he said.

“It’s just so sad because there’s a lot of lives that were lost, lizards, tortoises and bird nests that were destroyed.

“The firemen were really good, there were eight to 10 vehicles [on] the mountain last night.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape braced for worst fire season in eight years

Morgan Will, who works at Cape Medical Response, helped to rescue rabbits that were kept inside a shed near the fire.

“Myself and partner … had asked if the rabbits would be removed and taken to safety, and were told by a fire crew on the scene that they had been told by owners to just release them into the bush,” she said.

“I found a crate, and with assistance from a fire crew from Volunteer Wildfire Services, we managed to get all the rabbits out of the hutches they were locked in and into the crate.”

Will carried the rabbit-filled crate to their vehicle. 

“We then drove up to a safe area and tried to arrange where we could take them to. While doing this, we saw an Animal Welfare Society vehicle and asked for assistance.”

“Without hesitation, they came to take the rabbits and relocated them to a proper crate and to safety,” she said.

The Animal Welfare Society of South Africa rescued 10 rabbits and four dogs on Tuesday, spokesperson Jaque Le Roux said.

“Today we rounded up 300 chickens and 40 goats enclosed in areas close to where the flames were coming,” he said.

Unfortunately, a baby springbok was not able to be rescued, as it ran into the flames out of fear.

“The team was devastated by that, as the flames were huge, and we were trying to save as many animals as we could.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • louis viljee says:

    What wonderful cooperation in the face of the disaster.
    I’m relieved the rabbits were removed to safety rather than releasing them and potentially causing another feral invasion and potential disaster.

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


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

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