House burns down, roads closed as firefighters battle blaze in Kalk Bay
Firefighters on Monday fought to contain a blaze on Trappieskop in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, that extended towards St James and spread across Boyes Drive.
The fire started just south of where the previous Kalk Bay fire, on 17 January, began. Monday’s fire spread towards residential properties with firefighters hard at work to keep the flames at bay.
A house burnt down in Lock Road, Kalk Bay — the occupants were away at the time — while another house was damaged. The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said, “No persons have been evacuated from their homes as crews are strategically placed to cover the residential area.”
The fire was fuelled by dry and hot conditions including unusually hot winds. More than 40 firefighters were on the ground, battling to contain the blaze, while four helicopters, assisted by a spotter plane, water-bombed it. At 5pm, they were still hard at work.
Boyes Drive and Old Boyes Drive, Kalk Bay Main Road and Clairvaux Road were closed to traffic.
Carelse reported that after 8pm, the fire had mostly been contained, but active firefighting efforts were ongoing with ground crews tirelessly working on the fireline throughout the night.
The aerial support had been providing crucial aid to the ground teams, with 20 firefighting resources now deployed across the fire area. Carelse further mentioned that the Incident Command Post had been established at Kalk Bay Harbour to offer strategic assistance.
The South African Weather Service (Saws) has warned that extremely high fire danger conditions are expected for Tuesday, 13 February, over the western and southern parts of Northern Cape, northeastern parts of Western Cape, central and southwestern parts of Free State, and the western parts of Eastern Cape.
A fierce Western Cape fire season
This year’s fire season in the Western Cape, which began on 1 December, has been notable for the many fierce and large wildfires that have blazed in the province.
Between 1 December and 31 January, 6,429 wildfires ignited in the province with an estimated total of 103,262 hectares of land burnt.
Our recently published Cape Infernos Part 1 explores the economic toll and scope of one of the most intense wildfire seasons in the Western Cape. Cape Infernos Part 2 explains why this Western Cape fire season has been so severe and looks at the vital lessons to be learnt from it.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Taking stock — staggering scale of Western Cape wildfires as fire season continues to rage
Since 1 December, the Western Cape government has spent more than R19-million on firefighting efforts.
On 1 February, the provincial government sought assistance from the National Disaster Management Centre to declare the wildfires in the province a provincial disaster. This declaration would grant the premier and the minister of finance the authority to reallocate funds as needed to sustain firefighting operations.
Last month, the Kluitjieskraal fire, the largest wildfire recorded in the Western Cape this year, ravaged the mountainous landscape of the Breede River Valley. Originating southeast of Wolseley on 22 January, it rapidly spread across 27,200 hectares over 11 days.
Climate change forecasts for the Western Cape, particularly Cape Town, indicate a worsening outlook for fire conditions in the coming years. This includes expectations of extended, hotter and drier summers, along with an increase in the frequency of southeasterly winds.
Research conducted by Zhongwei Liu, a PhD researcher at Coventry University, and Stefaan Conradie, a PhD student at the University of Cape Town, found that extreme fire weather had become around 90% more likely in a warmer world. DM
This is a developing story.