Wildfire in Barrydale, Overberg District in the Western Cape, claims life of fire fighter
A wildfire broke out in Barrydale in the Overberg, Western Cape, nearly one week ago and quickly spread into the mountain fanned by strong winds. It is still burning on Friday, 5 February 2021 and not contained as yet. Sadly, EPWP Fire fighter Nelio (Nippie) van Rooi from the Barrydale Station lost his life while fighting the wildfire on Sunday, 31 January 2021. Fire Chief Reinard Geldenhuys confirmed the sad news in a Facebook post, “It is with great sadness and loss that I need to inform you of the line of duty death of EPWP Fire fighter van Rooi from Barrydale Station. Mr van Rooy died while serving his community. Rus sag Neelio, ons het dit van hier af....” Reports from Facebook on 2 February 2021 stated, “This morning was our first chance to get a view of the top of the mountain. Unfortunately it confirmed that there is still fire on the mountain. Aerial resources deployed to bomb out this specific section, but due to old veld age and the inability to get ground crews on the mountain, this proved to be ineffective. After robust discussions, meeting with landowners and weighing up all possible options we are left with the following scenario: The fire remains inaccessible; there is a threat to structures and agriculture at the foot of the mountain. Therefore, contingency plans between landowners, CapeNature, goFPA and Fire Department were formulated which will mitigate the risk and to be best prepared. There are actions already in progress, including additional ground teams re-enforcing firebreaks, landowners clearing around their infrastructure and we are gearing up for a possible fight whilst remaining hopeful for the fire to burn itself out against the rocky cliff. To the Barrydale Agri association, well done for your preparedness and coordination. Thanks to the Swellendam Municipality for their support from Barrydale. CapeNature is supported by Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association (GoFPA), Overberg District Municipality Fire and Working on Fire ground teams.
The incident report at 21h00 on 3 February 2021, stated, “Status: not contained. The past few days were used in order to prepare for when this fire moved down the mountain to the farms, Doringrivier etc and to close this fire off. With an increase of wind this afternoon the fire told us that the time has come for the big battle. The fire is now within sight of Barrydale and we want the community to understand what they can expect and keep you informed. The nature of this fire:
- mountain terrain with very old veld that makes it nearly impossible to fight whilst it is still burning in the mountains
- This mountain (like most) has deep "klowe" thus, in majority of incidents, the fire tends to move much faster when coming down.”
“This afternoon the final planning meeting with all the stakeholders was held and our tactics agreed for the next 48 hours. The resources were deployed and working hard in light wind conditions. Our resources include a large representation of the local landowners and a WoF chopper on standby at the incident command post. You can expect lots of fire and smoke close to town. A large contingent of emergency vehicles is present. We are working in a phased manner bringing the active fire safely down to the farmlands and fighting the lines with the potential threat an uncontrolled spread to Barrydale.
We expect to bring the fire around the mountain above Barrydale during the day tomorrow. Tomorrow 100 ground team members will be deployed with all current resources. A big thanks to the CapeNature FTE and Working on Fire ground crews who have worked tirelessly, in very hot hostile conditions, to prepare for the next two days.”
The incident report at 23h00 on 4 February read, “Status: not contained. Objectives of this fire: Prevent damage to infrastructure by being proactive and closing down the fire close to Barrydale. We would like to express our thanks to Dr Christo Marais and Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) for additional resources provided. As well as Working on Fire for their role.”
Etienne du Toit. deputydirector forWestern Cape GovernmentFire BrigadeServicessaid, “On behalf of the Western CapeDisaster Management Centre, we would like to express our heartfelt sympathy and offer our prayers and thoughts to ourfellow firefighters, the families and loved ones of the Overberg Fire fighter Nelio van Rooi,who made the ultimate sacrificeon Sunday, 31 January 2021,during fire suppression operations near Barrydale. No words can express the sorrow you areexperiencing; you may however find solace in the fact that this firefighter gave his live while servingthe community. He isnow in a peaceful eternal place where no further harm can come to him.Source: Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association Facebook posts and Etienne du Toit. deputy director for WesternCape Government Fire Brigade Services
Source: Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association Facebook posts.