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Monday, March 9, 2015

what caused ........ 'capetown fires'

I had posted on the raging fire at Capetown, the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape.  There was news of the houses of Dale Steyn and few others cricketers too being in the fire ravaged area.   Now there is news of South African firefighters having extinguished all fires in Cape Town after almost a week of battling the worst runaway blazes in the coastal city in at least 15 years.  The wildfires, fanned by hot and windy weather conditions, charred about 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of indigenous fynbos and other vegetation and razed some homes, making it the worst such disaster since at least 2000 in South Africa’s second-largest city and biggest tourist destination.

“All fires are out,” the City of Cape Town said Saturday on its Twitter account. “Any flare-ups will be dealt with by local area stations. Cape Point will be monitored by South Africa National Parks,” the government parks agency, it said.  The blazes, which began on March 1, led to the evacuation of a number of households and old-age homes and had posed a threat to some wine farms in the Constantia valley.

As the cause of loss is being examined, it is reported  that a helicopter pilot was killed on Sunday after being forced to make a crash landing while fighting the blaze. According to eNCA, he was one of the country's top helicopter rescue pilots.  It is stated that  there was a fire flareup in the Cape Point area and that the crash took place at around 11:00. Initial reports suggested that the pilot was injured, and that an air ambulance was dispatched to take him to hospital. Unfortunately, the pilot succumbed to his wounds and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.

Besides the sad loss of life,  and to that of many a property - Data centre company Teraco says fires have hit its Cape Town facility but that the damage is contained.  Africa’s only vendor neutral data centre, Teraco, is quoted as saying  its Cape Town data centre is currently running on generator power after a fire affected the Great Westerford Building in Rondebosch, Cape Town. It’s  building had been evacuated and the fire contained. Teraco serves more than 170 clients, who specialise in the likes of telecoms, outsourcing, content, enterprise and financial services.

The fires may be out in Cape Town but a theory about the cause of blaze is kindling debate. According to officials in South Africa’s second-largest city, the fire may have resulted from a cigarette butt cast from the window of a car along a highway in Muizenberg, a suburb that lies to the city’s southeast. From there the burn spread westward across the peninsula atop which Cape Town sits.  I’m afraid negligence by people doesn’t help,”  an alderman who heads the city’s public safety committee, told eNews Channel Africa.

Though Smith cited a text from someone who claimed to have witnessed the butt tossing, that hasn’t persuaded some locals, who took to Twitter over the weekend to voice their skepticism. “This story about a cigarette starting the fire on Boyes Drive is the biggest joke of the year,” tweeted one; “A cigarette can’t start a fire,” wrote another. As part of the study, researchers lit 75 cigarettes and tossed them one at a time them into grass on the side of a road when the wind whipped at 40 kilometers per hours (24.8 mph), the humidity hovered at 14% and the herbage had a moisture content of 12% of oven-dry weight. Three of the butts ignited the bush sufficient to force firefighters, who participated in the trial, to extinguish the flames.  The city has called in the services of one of South Africa’s leading forensic investigators, Dr David Klatzow, to look into how the fires originated.

Officials say they will investigate the cause of the blazes, which hospitalized one firefighter, burned 5,550 hectares (12,355 acres), damaged 13 structures and forced the evacuation of at least 500 people. The fire  has cost the region about about $500,000 (US) in firefighting efforts. The pilot who died in a helicopter crash while dousing fire at Cape Point this morning has been identified as Willem Hendrik “Bees” Marais, City Press reports. Marais attempted a forced landing with his Bell 212 Huey near Olifantsbos in the Table Mountain National Park at 11:30 when he crashed.

As a freelance flyer for poverty relief programme Working On Fire, Marais worked tirelessly this week battling the blaze that erupted last Sunday, scooping water and dropping it on flames with a 1000 litre bambi-bucket attached to his chopper.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar 
9th Mar 2015.


News collated from various sources on the net; photos credit : guardian.co.uk.

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