Kleinmond wildfire is 95 percent contained after five-day battle
Fire fighters from a number of services and agencies have been fighting a wildfire in high temperatures that has burnt more than 5 000 hectares of land in Kleinmond in Overstrand in the Western Cape Province. The fire, which started in the early hours of Saturday morning, 8 January 2022, was believed to have started on the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) property Highlands, between Kleinmond and Bot River above Arabella. The fire was burning in a young, dense pine plantation and slash in the direction of Perdeberg and Kleinmond away from Highlands Road and has burnt 5 314 hectares to date. Incident commanders were Overstrand CFO Lester Smith, senior manager: Fire and Emergency Services, Disaster Management and Security Services and CFO Reinard Geldenhuys, manager Emergency Services at Overberg District Municipality. Aerial support included three spotter aircraft, a bomber, two Hueys and the Black Hawk helicopter since Saturday to provide additional aerial fire fighting capacity.
Agencies include Overstrand Municipality, Overberg District Municipality, City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service, CapeNature, Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre, HARSA, Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS), EMS, Working on Fire, Enviro Wildfire, Overberg Wildfire Volunteers, Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association, NCC Environmental Services, Forestry Support Programme (DFFE), Lower Botrivier Fire Management Unit and several community groups.
No injuries were reported but one structure was destroyed, which was not inhabited and in an inaccessible area with no defendable space.
Temperatures in the incident command post were around 36 and 37 degrees Celsius and teams had to deal with a gale force north-westerly wind on Sunday, causing a number of flare-ups.
Affected areas include Perdeberg, Karwyderskraal, Rooisand, Highlands Road, Arabella, Heuningkloof, Rivendell, Botrivierand and Kleinmond in Overstrand.
Overstrand Major Rabie said, “Our focus thus far has been on extinguishing the fire. Enviro Wildfire Services has been appointed to do a fire investigation and indications are that the fire originated on the DFFE property.”
DFFE Minister Barbara Creecy commended the 300 fire fighters who had battled the blaze since Saturday. “The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment notes with concern the fire that emanated in Kleinmond in the Western Cape. As a matter of course, the Fire Protection Association in the area is expected to compile a fire report regarding the facts pertaining to the source/origins of the fire,” said Minister Creecy.
She said the director-general of the department had asked the acting CEO of SANParks to do an assessment of the fire. “The services of SANParks have been enlisted, since they have internal capabilities to undertake an assessment of this nature. The scope of the assessment will include the origins and causes of the fire, whether fire breaks and other preventative measures were in place and any other factor that may have exacerbated the fire,” Minister Creecy said.
She said once the assessment had been received and processed by the department, the findings and recommendations would be made public.
“The department’s Working on Fire (WoF) is on the ground and aerial resources continue to assist with suppression efforts at the fire in Kleinmond.” Creecy said 169 fire fighters and management, including pilots and helicopter support staff, five fire trucks, two transport buses and three bakkies had been deployed by WoF to assist fire authorities in the Overberg with continuous fire suppression efforts since Saturday, 8 January 2022.
“A total of 116 additional fire fighters from local municipalities have been deployed. Three spotter aircraft, two Hueys and one Black Hawk helicopter have been deployed since Saturday to provide additional aerial fire fighting capacity. Additional aerial resources remain on standby at Stellenbosch airfield and at Newlands fire base. The helicopters and aircraft have already made 284 water drops during 65 hours in the air. A structure has reportedly burned, with no loss of life thus far. Since the summer fire season officially began in the Western Cape on 1 December 2021; including Kleinmond, the team has assisted in fighting and suppressing 22 fires across the province,” Minister Creecy said.
She said the fire in the Kleinmond area of the Overberg had been fuelled by high temperatures and gale-force winds. “The wildland fire is also believed to have burnt more intensely in areas rife with alien invasive vegetation. However, fynbos, which are destroyed during a wildfire, are dependent on fire to germinate and thrive.”
Sources: Dr Annelie Rabie, Office of the Overstrand Executive Mayor, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)