The fire that has been raging in the vicinity of Greyton in the Overberg area of the Western Cape for the past week was started by two children in an act of “malicious ignition”, according to authorities.
“We’ve appointed Enviro Wildfire to investigate this. Hopefully, it will result in criminal proceedings,” Overberg fire chief Reinhard Geldenhuys told News24 on Wednesday.
“There are three issues here: The damage to infrastructure, the cost, and the fact that it shouldn’t be done. These kids set this fire for no reason. We use the phrase ‘malicious ignition’ because it’s not arson, which is a technical thing on its own. Two children went into the nature reserve, set the fire and left. We’re going to bring them to book,” Geldenhuys said.
The fire has been raging since last Wednesday and has caused severe damage, although the extent thereof cannot be determined yet.
Between 50 and 100 firefighters were on the ground fighting the blaze at any given time, Geldenhuys said, but by Wednesday, the situation was beginning to improve.
“We’ve managed to contain all the lines around Greyton and the houses [on Tuesday] night. We still have two active lines on the western and eastern side. There’s an active line above Genadendal that is still burning, as well as toward Riviersonderend, and we have teams working on those. Around 60% to 80% of the work that remains is to mop up and ensure that we don’t have flare-ups.”
Geldenhuys said that five “extensive” structures had been destroyed in the fire.
“But we haven’t even started quantifying the damage to the orchards and vineyards, and of course the cost of the firefighting effort.”
Geldenhuys could not say when exactly the fire would be completely extinguished.
“We still have a line high in the mountains and we just can’t get to it. This has been the problem all week. We can’t safely put people in there, so we have to wait for it to come to a more accessible area.”
Two separate wildfires that started in the Gouritzmond area, about 300km from Cape Town, 1.5km apart from each other, were mostly contained by Wednesday, the Garden Route District Municipality said in a statement.
Mopping up operations have been going on throughout the night.
“The fire is currently not out of control, neither 100% under control as some inaccessible areas are still active,” the statement read.
Eight firefighters from the Garden Route District Municipality’s Fire and Rescue Services – with four vehicles, as well as various crew and vehicles from the Hessequa Municipality Fire Services – were in attendance throughout the night. Activities concentrated on mopping up duties.
A small house, a caravan and three sheds remain the only structures lost during the wildfire so far.
“The objective for [Wednesday] is to deploy three… teams spread on all four fire flanks for aggressive mopping-up procedures and 12 Garden Route [municipal] firefighters with vehicles to extinguish all active firelines. Hessequa Municipality firefighters will assist in safeguarding structures.”
The municipality said firefighting efforts will continue throughout the day and any available farmers and farm-watch resources will be utilised.