Simon’s Town fire rages on: Non-residents urged to steer clear

Firefighters remain on scene at a fire in the Simon’s Town area on Wednesday for the second day. Picture: Armand Hough Independent Newspapers

Firefighters remain on scene at a fire in the Simon’s Town area on Wednesday for the second day. Picture: Armand Hough Independent Newspapers

Published Dec 21, 2023


Cape Town - The stubborn Simon’s Town fire had created a thick blanket of smoke over various parts of the city yesterday, with several residents evacuating the area and non-residents urged to steer clear as the mountain fire raged for a second day.

The fire was reported on Tuesday, near Castle Rock, and about 150 firefighters were on scene to tackle the blaze, fanned by the south-easter.

By yesterday, more than 300 staff were on the ground, with three helicopters assisting.

Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) dispatched contracted crews from NCC Environmental Services, Working on Fire, and Volunteer Wildfire Services.

City Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said only a single derelict building was damaged on SA Navy grounds.

“The threat to the houses on Victory, Horatio and Barnard streets was averted in the early hours of (yesterday) morning. The residents of Harbour Heights were evacuated as a precaution just before 1am.”

At the time, five firefighters had sustained injuries and two were taken to hospital for medical treatment.

In an update provided at about 1pm, Carelse said firefighters remain on scene with ground firefighting efforts supported by five helicopters water-bombing the flames.

TMNP integrated fire manager Justin Buchmann said the fire started on private land and burnt into the park. On Tuesday, the fire was burning on private and Public Works land towards the SA Navy armaments depot.

Yesterday, there were still about 200 staff on the ground, including Disaster Risk Management volunteers.

Roads leading to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point remained inaccessible for most of the day.

Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, said more than 100 fire engines and water tankers, and additional resources from across 32 fire stations, were brought in to fight the mountain blaze.

He also lauded firefighters for protecting residents’ properties and the naval base when it was under threat, as well as Disaster Risk volunteers, Traffic Services, and Law Enforcement volunteers for their involvement.

In a statement, Smith said since the start of December, the Fire Service had responded to more than 2 500 incidents, including fires and special service calls such as motor vehicle accidents and trauma causes. Of these, 60% or 1 500, were vegetation fires. The cause of the fire is unknown. Residents who were evacuated on Tuesday were also given the green light to return.

Disaster Risk Management spokesperson Charlotte Powell said about 30 to 40 houses in Harbour Heights Close and Harbour Heights Drive were informed to evacuate overnight as a precautionary measure.

Yesterday, DRMC advised non-residents to steer clear of Simon’s Town. More precautionary evacuations were done yesterday afternoon and DRMC staff were checking various parking areas along the coastal road to direct members of the public out of the area.

Ward councillor Simon Liell-Cock said the fire was moving closer to the houses at Runciman Drive and Murdoch Valley.

“The ammo depot itself was saved and the City went and assisted the navy there. But the ammo depot at least was saved and it’s safe now because it appears to have burnt mainly right around it. There’s no more danger there. It's only a danger to this part on the False Bay side now where it hadn’t burnt on its way up.”

Liell-Cock said smoke inhalation was the major cause for Tuesday’s evacuations. Happy Valley shelter residents were also evacuated and moved to the civic centre due to heavy smoke. They then returned at about 10–11pm on Tuesday.

At about 5pm, TMNP said crews had to make their way near the Black Marlin Restaurant as the fire was approaching the property. The danger was averted and the area declared safe.

About 450 hectares of veld was burnt.

Cape of Good Hope SPCA communications manager Belinda Abraham said search and rescue efforts were under way and inspectors were combing the fire-ravaged areas for any animals who may be burnt and in need of help.

Multiple fires in the Cape Winelands District were contained, yesterday (Tues) afternoon.

The Cape Winelands District Municipality’s Fire Services confirmed that fires at the Du Toit’s Kloof Pass and Berg River Dam had been contained, but added teams would remain on alert for any flare-ups.

No injuries or damages to property or infrastructure were reported.

Meanwhile, Gift of the Givers (GOTG) were on scene at a fire at the Siyahlala informal settlement in Killarney Gardens, yesterday (Wed). The fire which started yesterday (Wed) morning left 100 people displaced and destroyed an estimated 50 structures.

No injuries or fatalities were reported at the time and the cause of the fire was unknown.

In an update on Thursday morning, added: “The positives we can take from this past operational period overnight is that no property was damaged, nor did any staff or member of the public suffer any injuries.

“Five aerial support craft have been activated as of first light, including the Black Hawk that can fly in very high winds, as we suspect will be the case today.

“Again, we cannot stress enough the work that has been done on the frontlines by the various agencies involved in trying to get this fire out,” Carelse said.

“A planning meeting will be held after the two Incident Management Teams have their briefing this morning, whereby the tactics for the day will be discussed and implemented.

“We had hoped for favourable wind conditions; however these elements are out of our control.”