Three out of 22 major fires in Cape Town were started maliciously, says SANParks

The Pinehaven fire. Photo: SANParks

The Pinehaven fire. Photo: SANParks

Published Jan 19, 2024


The South African National Parks (SANParks) said the increase in fire incidents in January has led to the suspicion that the three major fires that took place in Cape Town were started with malicious intent.

From January 1 to January 18, a total of 22 fires were reported.

The Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) has raised its concerns as it saw a pattern emerging with majority of recent fires occurring in the southern section of the TMNP, namely in the Kalk Bay, Ocean View and Redhill areas, as well as in the north of the park, in the Signal Hill and Pipe Track areas.

SANParks regional spokesperson, Lauren Clayton, said fires in these areas can pose significant risk to communities living adjacent to the park, particularly with the hot temperature and strong wind conditions currently being experienced.

“SANParks firefighting teams, comprised of contracted crews from Nature Conservation Co-operation (NCC) Wildfires, Working on Fire and Volunteer Wildfire Services with Cape Town City Fire and Rescue Services have demonstrated swift response and effective containment of fires,” Clayton said.

“A concerning trend in the cause of these fires has surfaced with the majority attributed to deliberate malicious intent. Following investigations into the fires by Environmental Wildfire Services, it is suspected that the three major fires were started with malicious intent.”

The three big fires:

Kalk Bay Fire – Malicious Intent

The fire above Boyes Drive in Kalk Bay, which started on January 17, burnt approximately 73 hectares of veld and was contained (i.e. stopped spreading) at 9.45pm with the collaborative efforts of over 115 firefighters, management staff, three Huey Helicopters, an AT 802 air tractor bomber, and a spotter plane. Firefighters are still busy dealing with flare-ups from hotspots in this fire area.

Slangkop (Ocean View) Fire – Malicious intent

A veld fire erupted in the Ocean View area at approximately 5.15pm on January 18. Preliminary reports suggest the use of dry-cut alien vegetation, potentially ignited with a cigarette lighter.

Pinehaven Fire – Malicious intent

This fire started between Pinehaven and Da Gama and spread towards Scarborough at approximately 11.30pm on January 18. Current indicators strongly suggest that the Pinehaven fire was ignited with malicious intent. Further investigation is underway.

“SANParks’ dedicated crews, supported by NCC Wildfires and VWS, are on standby throughout the season and prepared for immediate deployment upon activation to ensure a robust response to emergent situations,” Clayton said.

“A strong partnership with the City of Cape Town and Provincial Disaster Management ensures joint response to fires of consequence. Efforts are under way to increase patrols in the south where many fires have occurred,” she said.

“Further appreciation is conveyed to the public for their support, the Checkers group for their donation of goods and to Spur Steak Ranch and Nando’s for sponsoring meals for firefighters.”

SANParks has urged the public to continue being vigilant and report any fires or suspicious activity immediately.

“Information in the form of pin locations, photographs and/or video clips of the early stages of any fire occurring within the Park is very valuable for an investigation into the cause of the fire for investigators to reconstruct the sequence of events on behalf of South African National Parks,” Clayton said.

“The public are urged not to make fires, even in designated areas when wind conditions are very strong, due to the risk of fires spreading.”

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