|Helderberg Fire - 16 April 2011|
|Written by Administrator|
|Saturday, 16 April 2011 14:37|
Every year it seems to be the same, a wild fire will start when winds are at their absolute worst - and fire fighters will be left with a nearly impossible task of battling an out of control, heavily fueled fire. This year is no different it seems, today on the 16 April 2011 I was walking in the local <a href="http://bryndekocks.com/blog/">Helderberg Nature Reserve as I often do</a>; I left early and by 9:30am I was on the way back home when I stopped and looked back at the nature reserve only to notice a small fire in the general direction of where I had just come from 20 minutes earlier. I got home and immediately phoned the local fire fighting unit and reported the fire on the Helderberg, located in Somerset West. They told me that they were aware of the fire and that they were sending units to take care of it, a few minutes later fire engine sirens could be heard.
Update: As of 18:00 on April 16th 2011, the fire is still continuing to burn, though the south eastern parts of the Helderberg Nature Reserve appear to have been saved, this is likely due to priority fire fighting due to the proximity with the Erinvale Golf Estate. Mid-afternoon saw a strong aerial force fighting the fire which included 5 helicopters and 2 or more airplanes, along with the 19 ground crews set up along the periphery of the fire. The concentration needed by both the fire fighters and the pilots must have been immense, with 3 helicopters filling up at a time, using a single dam- the margin for error was tiny.
The fire spread rapidly towards to the west with reports of 10 houses being damaged. I have heard from a reliable source that some of these houses were those located just above Spanish Farm, up the road from Parel Vallei High School in Somerset West.
The fire was then reported to have continued with the winds and gone around the mountain towards Stellenbosch side. While the other end of the fire, located on the eastern portion of the Helderberg Nature Reserve also continued to burn. As I look outside at the mountain now, there is still smoke, though I can safely say that the mountain is looking better than it did a few hours ago, though honestly there is just too much burnt to find any positive in this. Around half of the Helderberg Nature Reserve looks to be burnt.
Update: As of 09:00 on April 17th, the fire is continuing to burn with apparent damage to another house overnight. There are currently two choppers working on the fire which has continued to move in both directions (west and east). The eastern side of the fire is primarily fairly high up on the mountain near the gorges, though the helicopters seem to be struggling to put it out there. On the western side of the fire, at least on the Somerset West side, it seems to be a lot smaller than it was yesterday, but it still looks to be burning near some of the houses.
I overheard one of the tenants of the Helderberg Nature Reserve say that the cause of the fire was a controlled burning which was controlled by and took place by Erinvale on Wednesday or Thursday. The wind on Saturday then caused the warm embers which were dormant, to ignite. The Nature Reserve is currently closed to visitors as can be expected with no ETA on when they are going to re-open. The burn scars are visible today with the fire looking like it took more than half of the nature reserve. New images are also added below.
Update: As of 19:00 on April 17th the fire is continuing to burn, though mostly on the Stellenbosch side of the mountain. I took a drive up Parel Vallei road earlier today along Spanish Farm and was able to see that the Straightway Head hotel had suffered extensive damage, media reports are confirming this saying that the Straightway Head hotel has been destroyed, though this is not the only place to have suffered damage, reading the comments below the article you will notice a story from a protea farmer who also suffered due to the fire. At sunset there were still areas burning near some Somerset West farm and residential areas on the lower to middle parts of the western side of the mountain, though the wind at higher altitude was blowing the smoke back towards Somerset West, a change from yesterdays south easter. Media reports are saying that at least 15 houses have been destroyed in the fire so far, making it the worst fire on the Helderberg in recent history.
Again I would like to express my appreciation to those involved in the containment of the fire, whether it be dedicated fire fighters, volunteers, or those involved with providing foods and beverages to the fire fighters.
Update: As of 19:00 on April 18th, while the fire has been controlled through today thanks to some light winds - SAWDIS is now reporting that a new flare up has occurred near to the Bellair Estate, which is located near the R44 as entering Somerset West from the Stellenbosch area. I have also received word from another personal source that the fire located near to Bellair is currently quite small and that it seems to be getting smaller. There are currently still numerous fire fighters on stand by, so any event should be quick to be tended to. The South African Weather Service is forecasting stronger winds on Wednesday, but looking at tomorrows wind forecast for Somerset West, tomorrow looks to be another very calm day with wind speeds under 12 km/h. I'm hoping soon there will be no more updates necessary and we can concentrate on ways on recovering that which has been lost.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 13:31|