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Western Cape Fires

This summer has seen very little fire activity compared to some seasons in the past, especially in the Western Cape. While the second week of March saw a large fire in Worcester followed by a fairly large fire near Sir Lowry’s pass, which saw the pass closed for a while – though this fire was extinguished quite promptly.

While January and February seem to be the peak months for fires in the Western Cape area, March seems to be the month this year. Currently there are fires raging outside Gansbaai and Kleinmond.

Winds have been of moderate strength which has helped to assist some of the fire fighters in controlling the fires to a certain degree, though reinforcements as well as a helicopter were called in to help fight these fires which were brought under control.

On Thursday the 17th of March 2011 the fire had been extinguished, but fire fighters were remaining vigilant and were ready for any possible flare ups later in the day as winds were forecast to pick up. Both fire fighters and members of Cape Nature were tending to the blazes.

Fire fighters would be anticipating the approach of a fairly strong cold front on Monday and Tuesday which is forecast to bring nearly 10mm of rain to areas. The moisture created by this front won’t last too long given the season and the ability for temperatures to rise quickly shortly after the passing of cold fronts, though it will provide some welcome relief.

kleinmond fire image

Photo – Looking towards Gordon’s Bay from Somerset West, 18 March 2011


Update (15:28 March 17) – Ironically while this morning when I wrote this article, I could not see a trace of smoke in the sky. Currently I cannot see anything but smoke. I’m not entirely sure where the fire is as I cannot see in excess of 500 meters but judging by the wind direction and density of the smoke here, I’d take a guess and say that it is the fire on Sir Lorey’s pass which was burning the other day which has flared up again.

With the winds currently howling in a South to South East direction this fire will likely pose strong risk to houses along the Gordon’s Bay and Somerset West mountain ranges. With fire fighters already tending to various other fires this may be a rough time as they cannot concentrate on a single fire and thus man power is diluted.

I will continue to update this article with information as I hear more about the fire. Here’s to hoping that fire fighters manage to calm the blaze.

Update (16:30 March 17) – Unconfirmed reports are stating that the fire is located near Steenbras on the Gordon’s Bay mountains.

Update (17:30 March 17) – Conflicting reports about the location of the fire, looking at the evidence now though, it looks as though it may possibly be the Kleinmond fire which has flared up again and with just the ‘right’ wind blowing, brought all the smoke over towards Somerset West and Strand. Currently the air in Somerset West is about 95% clearer and not much evidence of smoker here any longer. Again, I will continue to update with any new information.

Update (13:31 March 18) – It has been confirmed that the fire is indeed the Kleinmond fire which has spread towards the Gordon’s Bay area. The news isn’t looking good at this stage, it’s currently the 18 March and the fire has been burning for several days now, but now it’s looking to spread to surrounding areas such as Gordon’s Bay, Rooi Els and Grabouw.

There’s still likely another 12 to 18 hours of strong South Easterly winds before the forecast call for winds to ease off a little. Though this is enough time to threaten parts of Gordon’s Bay. Winds are expected to be coming from the East tomorrow morning which would send the fire towards the Rooi Els area, but also forecast to swing back to the South East in the afternoon.

There were currently helicopters and in excess of 100 people tending to the fire, from fire fighters to volunteers and farm workers. Though the helicopter was struggling to tend to areas because of the strong winds and the thick smoke plumes.

Several people have already been injured in the fire. I urge everyone to appreciate the efforts of the fire fighters tackling these blazes, it’s a dangerous job and they’re currently getting very little sleep due to all the activity.

Stay tuned for further updates.



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