Table Mountain fire contained, but ’not out’

The city is shrouded in smoke as efforts to contain the Table Mountain National Park fire continued on Monday.

The runaway fire on Table Mountain that started on Sunday morning has been contained, but the fire is not out yet, said Incident Commander Arlene Wehr.

Incident Commander Arlene Wehr at Roeland Street fire station spoke to the media on Monday afternoon.

With the south-easterly wind picking up speed all day on Sunday, it fanned the firestorm and the effects of the blaze were felt as far as Plumstead. The gusty wind continued on Monday morning but the blaze was finally under control by later in the day.

“The fire is contained but it’s not extinguished yet,” Ms Wehr said at a media briefing at Roeland Street fire station on Monday afternoon.

“It’s not spreading right now. However, the wind is a major factor and spreads the fire by blowing embers around. That’s how the fire spreads. So we can’t say that this is over yet as the wind is unpredictable.”

She said that the 150 firefighters and 100 supporting staff, who had been battling the blaze since Sunday, were on standby in case the fire started spreading again. They were also monitoring the blaze via a drone, she said.

Earlier on Monday morning residents of Walmer Estate, Woodstock and Vredehoek were being evacuated.

Charlotte Powell, head of public awareness and preparedness for the City’s Disaster Risk Management unit, said despite the danger, everyone was co-operating as they moved to safer places in an organised manner.

“(UCT) students were evacuated yesterday (Sunday) and they are in various hotels or other resources that UCT is linked with or that the Disaster Risk Management team arranged. We moved about 4 500 students and that was done swiftly,” said Ms Powell.

“The residents of the suburbs are also being evacuated and the Disaster Risk Management team is attending to this. At this stage we cannot say how many people were moved or are being moved. It’s an ongoing process and it’s precautionary.”

At this stage, said Mayor Dan Plato, it was not yet possible to put a cost on the damages, but he was grateful that there had been no fatalities.