The Disaster Risk Management team in Cape Town, South Africa says a wildfire on the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain has been contained. However, officials are still on the scene and will continue to monitor the situation.
Fire and Rescue Incident Commander Arlene Wehr told South Africa News24 that the possibility of flare-ups exists and while things are contained, the fire is not done.
City authorities said residents of parts of the Vredehoek suburb were evacuated as a “precautionary” measure after flames spread toward the area. Devil’s Peak, one of the iconic points of the mountain, was lit up in the early hours of the morning by the flames, which had now spread to the front side of the mountain and toward residential areas.
A man in his 30s was arrested and is expected to face arson charges. Although one city official says it’s not clear if he was responsible for starting the fire.
“Residents alerted us to a fire being started and he admitted his role in starting a fire” said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, JP Smith.
Smith also told the Associated Press that witnesses reported seeing three people moving through flames on the mountain slopes setting more fires.
“We are calling on the public to come forward with any information”.
Wildfires on the mountains surrounding Cape Town are fairly common during the hot, dry summer months but are sometimes fanned into huge, uncontrollable blazes by strong winds.
Gift of the Givers, a disaster response organization, said it was providing meals for around 4,000 students who were evacuated from the University of Cape Town. Many of those students were taken to local hotels, Gift of the Givers said. Activities at the university have been shut down until at least Wednesday, the university said.
The fire caused ‘devastating’ damage to many historical buildings in the vicinity. Among the most heavily damaged was the university’s Jagger Library, where important archives and book collections were kept. Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said some valuable works were lost but many were saved by roller doors that were activated to seal off parts of the library.
“It is tragic that literary treasures have been lost at the UCT library but I have been informed that some of the most valuable works were saved,” Plato said.
The historical Mostert’s Mill, South Africa’s only restored working windmill and a historical house, Cabdoll, which served as student housing were destroyed.
A Cape Town firefighter sustained burn wounds while battling the flames. No other injuries were reported.
Story compiled with assistance from wire reports