New fire front opens

New fire front opens

As the smoke and ash settled in one part of Cape Town, exhausted fire-fighters had to muster their strength to battle a fresh blaze on the main West Coast road, the R27, late last night.

Eight fire engines were dispatched to the R27, 10km north of Koeberg Nature Reserve near Atlantis.

City officals allayed fears that the fire could spread to Koeberg Power Station.

The fire comes as Capetonians started counting the cost of the blaze which devastated parts of the Southern Peninsula.

The city’s director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, said eight fire engines had been sent to the scene near Atlantis.

Meanwhile, the four fires near Cape Point Nature Reserve had been “largely contained” late last night.

Bosman said fire-fighters would stay overnight to ensure the fires did not flare up.

Roads in the park were cordoned off on Friday because of the fires.

Speaking to Weekend Argus, Cape Town fire chief Ian Schnetler praised the “determination and dedication” of fire-fighters who had for the past week battled scorching blazes in Muizenberg, Chapman’s Peak, Tokai, Noordhoek and Tokai, where at least 13 homes were damaged and three were gutted.

“On the fire line, they went about their business where ordinary citizens wouldn’t dare to go.”

Schnetler also praised the volunteers who had fought alongside the professional fire-fighters.

“I take my hat off to them. You see a guy that comes out there, black from the smoke, but he still goes about his business.”

About 6 000 hectares of vegetation were destroyed and at least two million litres of water were dropped by helicopters.

About 500 people were evacuated when fires threatened their homes.

The estimated damage to infrastructure in the Table Mountain National Park alone is thought to be R5m.

Residential damage to property from the fires, could be well over R60 million.

A Cape Town loss adjustor, Grant Cooper, calculated the figure from eight claims his company had received so far.

These had been assigned to him by six insurance companies: Mutual & Federal, Echelon, Hollard, Santam, MUA and HIC.

He said one or two houses in Tokai had not been insured. Smaller claims came in for damage from smoke and upholstery damage.

Santam spokesman Donald Kau said: “We are still getting in touch with policy holders.

“There has been little residential damage but we will be doing our assessment in the next few days.”

”Santam has experience in dealing with large fire-related claims from previous incidents, such as the St Francis fires in 2012, which was a valuable lesson.

“Santam was able to settle all the claims received – amounting to about R40m – either by replacing or repairing homes of various values ranging between R1m and R16m.”

Cape Chamber of Commerce President Janine Myburgh said the widespread fires “could not have come at a worst time”.

She said March was one of the city’s most popular tourism months. “It’s a time when the world’s televisions focus on the Cycle Tour.

“Normally this would be a spectacular advertisement for the scenic beauty of Cape Town; instead, we’ve had fire stories and that could prove to be off-putting.”

Many riders in the shortened tour that starts on Sunday morning said they would ride in solidarity with the 2 000 firefighters from around the country, including many volunteers, who battled this week’s blazes. Myburgh said the after-effects of the fires would be felt, not only by the tourism industry, but also the local economy.

By Thursday afternoon, the costs of helicopter water drops, for example, was estimated at R4m, according to SanParks.

Bosman also praised the “amazing” response by Capetonians who donated goods, water and money.

Cutting Edge Construction owner Leon Mostert and his staff were among the Capetonians who volunteered to help out.

After spotting someone picking up litter along the torched mountainside, he decided to follow their example.

He and his workers, carrying bags and wearing gloves, collected empty bottles, cans and shards of glass which they loaded onto the company bakkie along Ou Kaapseweg.

“I thought I would just take an hour and just do my bit,” he said.