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Simon’s Town blaze rips through 450ha, hundreds of firefighters continue battle

Simon’s Town blaze rips through 450ha, hundreds of firefighters continue battle
A firefighter works his way along the firebreak facing the wind. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhosel)

Nearly 450 hectares of veld have burnt so far in the Simon’s Town wildfire, which began on Tuesday. After an all-night operation, firefighters have been hailed for their efforts in keeping the flames from reaching residential properties.

More than 200 firefighters continue to fight the flames in Simon’s Town, as a wildfire, which began on Tuesday morning, continues for a second day. 

At 12.50pm on Wednesday, the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said firefighters remain on the scene in Simon’s Town, “with ground firefighting efforts supported by five helicopters, water-bombing the flames”.

Simon’s Town mountain slopes in flames on 19 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Simon's Town

A helicopter carries water to the fire on Tuesday, 19 December. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Residents of Simon’s Town woke up to the the news that a fire had started near Castle Rock. Helicopters and a spotter plane were on scene, dumping thousands of litres of sea water onto the flames. Six hours later on Boyes Drive: Simon‘s Town is covered in a carpet of smoke. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Simon’s Town firefighting efforts continue after an intense night and evacuations after midnight

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

One hour before sunset: Residents have evacuated their families and pets in Simons Kloof where the fire spread dangerously close to the top row of the residential area. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

There are still more than 200 staff members on the ground from the City’s Fire and Rescue, Table Mountain National Park, Working on Fire, Volunteer Wildfire Services, NCC and Disaster Management Centre volunteers, he said.  

“Weather conditions at the moment are favouring firefighting efforts, with the wind having subsided considerably – however, the Incident Management Team is keeping a close eye on the situation, should these conditions change.” 

Eerie scene: Father and daughter strolling on Long Beach in Simon’s Town, spotting flare-ups. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

A man watches as firefighters and water-bombing helicopers fight the flames in Simon’s Town on 19 December. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Carelse added: “Apart from the derelict building damaged last night, there have been no further damages to property and there is no immediate threat.”

On Wednesday, SANParks confirmed to Daily Maverick that about 450 hectares of veld had been burnt so far.

Fisherman Rory caught a Bronze Whaler on Mackerel beach while Simon’s Town is almost invisible owing to thick smoke. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

One hour before sunset: Residents have evacuated their families and pets in Simons Kloof where the fire spread dangerously close to the top row of the residential area. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

As the fire spreads all along Simon‘s Town baboons find refuge on buildings along Main Road, frequently looking up towards their home and foraging grounds. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Simon’s Town Main Road is hazy with smoke from the fire. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

8pm: Volunteers that were helping to set up snacks and drinks for firefighters and the residents of the local homeless shelter are now standing outside the City Hall, looking up to the fireline that is slowly moving down to the residential areas. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Engulfed in smoke: A firefighter on the firebreak above Rocklands Farm south of Simon’s Town towards Millers Point. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Firefighters work their way along the firebreak, facing the wind on Rocklands Farm in Murdock Valley South. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

For hours they monitored the fire and watched it moving closer to their top row home. Their biggest concern was the risk of sparks lighting up the pine trees. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

2am: Not everyone is leaving. Locals John and Gavin, assisted by Jethro Perry and Joshua Jardim, are prepared to douse the embers with wet towels. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Smoke shrouds Simon’s Town at dusk on Tuesday, 19 December. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

First photo of the day: Helicopters waterbombing the slopes around Millers Point where the fire had restarted, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Onlookers have taken their binoculars to watch the rising flames above the residential area of Murdoch Valley South, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Firefighters load up the mobile fire extinguishing units with water to prevent the fire from spreading further at Rocklands farm, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Helicopters collecting seawater right on the shoreline of Murdoch Valley South, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

Helicopters were operating tirelessly in collecting water from the ocean to water bomb areas above Rocklands Farm, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

The owner’s house of Rocklands farm is covered in thick smoke, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

A team of firefighters in full protective gear moving towards to fireline at Rocklands farm, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

A helicopter soaring high over Paul Rowe’s home at Rocklands farm, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

On the second day of the great Simonstown fire, emergency units had no chance to catch a breath, on Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

A member of NCC firefighting crew is taking videos of three helicopters tirelessly waterbombing the slopes near Rocklands farm, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

The scorching flames behind Rockland’s farm covered large parts of the mountain. A helicopter is trying to stop the fire from moving further down towards the farm area, Wednesday 20 December 2023. Many farm animals including goats, sheep and chickens were saved. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

The efforts of the firefighters and waterbombing efforts paid off. All fires at Rocklands were doused, on Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

View over Simonstown harbour in the morning after the fire. The destruction the fire caused in the area of Simons Kloof and Harbour Heights is apparent, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

View over Simonstown harbour in the morning after the fire, where the destruction the fire had caused in the area of Simons Kloof and Harbour Heights is apparent, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

In the aftermath of the Great Simonstown fire, a small beetle moving between the branches of a burned bush, Wednesday 20 December 2023. (Photo: Gunnar Oberhoesel)

The Western Cape MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning, Anton Bredell, urged the public to follow the instructions from firefighting authorities in Simon’s Town. 

He said that while this fire is being addressed, several wildfires in the Cape Winelands District Municipality also need attending:

  • A fire is burning through dense and inaccessible vegetation along the Berg River in the vicinity of the Berg River Dam outside Franschhoek. Efforts are focused on preventing the spread to farms and nearby infrastructure;
  • A fire in Du Toit’s Kloof outside Paarl is mostly contained, with ground crews attending to isolated hotspots, monitoring for flare-ups, and doing general mopping-up work.

The provincial government has budgeted R16-million for the current wildfire season. DM

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

Reporting by Victoria O’Regan

This article has been updated  with new photos throughout the week.

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