The fires blazing in the Franschhoek and Jonkershoek mountains in the Western Cape continue to demand colossal efforts by fire fighting services a week since they began, with flames now burning high into inaccessible terrain and an approximate 13 600 hectares of land having been scorched.
This according to the latest update from Cape Winelands District Municipality’s Fire Services, who on Saturday evening said that two firefighters had been seriously injured as they battled the blaze.
They warned that soaring temperatures reaching into the high 30s, accompanied by strong winds expected in the afternoon, mean that firefighters have their work cut out for them today.
Jonkershoek latest: ‘Major flare-ups’ overnight
Cape Winelands District Municipality’s Fire Services spokesperson Jo Ann Otto said on Saturday evening that the fire in the valley below Jongkershoek is proving challenging to combat.
“The teams reported repeated flare-ups that were difficult to bring under control due to the hot weather. The fire fighters, ground crews and vehicles will focus their attention on managing this fire during the relative cool of the night. Active firefighting activities and management of flare-ups a will continue throughout the night,” she said.
On Sunday morning, she said that these efforts that carried on throughout the night had been relatively successful, despite a “major flare-up” that occurred just before sundown last night in the Jonkershoek valley just above Lanzerac. “The rapid deployment of resources allowed for swift containment,” she said.
Otto said that because of the inherent risks associated with fighting fires at such high altitudes and in such low-visibility scenarios, firefighters have been forced to allow the fires burning on the peaks of Bothmaskop through to Jonkershoek.
“The fire lines will either burn our naturally as they run out of fuel or will continue to burn toward more accessible areas. Once they are more accessible firefighting resources will be deployed,” she said.
Stellenbosch crews continue operations on the ground
Otto said that efforts will continue in several hotspot areas where flare-ups are a concern, and vowed to continue tackling the blaze throughout the day and night despite the adverse conditions facing emergency services.
“The fire fighting and ground teams assisted by purpose-built vehicles will be deployed to hotspots in the accessible Jonkershoek areas, where they will continue with the management of flare-ups, monitoring and mopping up operations. These operations will continue throughout the night and into tomorrow,” she said.
She said that according to current estimations a total area of 13 600ha has been affected, including areas in the Overberg area where the fires began.
“The teams are being replaced by fresh crews this morning. Today’s predicted hot weather will prove challenging to fire fighters and ground teams, as it is conducive to flare-ups and heat exhaustion. The wind is predicted to increase speed in the late afternoon and the effect of this will be closely monitored,” she said.