Cape Town Fire Firefighters
Firefighters are still battling the Cape Town fire which began on Sunday. Photo supplied

The Table Mountain runaway fire continues to spread as firefighters worked tirelessly yesterday and overnight to tackle the blaze, which has also destroyed a library at the University of Cape Town.

According to the City of Cape Town, precautionary evacuations have gotten underway on Peppertree Road, Vredehoek, after the fire spread towards the area overnight.

“Evacuate immediately and remember to take chronic medication, identity documents, passports, cash, cell phones, bottled water, non-perishable food, a set of clothing, blanket and toiletries,” the City said in an urgent message.

Meanwhile, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) will assist animals that are displaced.

The City of Cape Town said there are no injuries to civilians that have been reported to the Disaster Operations Centre to date.

Working on Fire confirmed on Monday morning:

“The fire has now spread towards the Vredehoek area as a result of the South Easter. The wind speed increased from about 2am this morning and additional fire crews are now stationed at Pepper Tree and Chelmsford area. As a precautionary these areas were evacuated.

“Further crews are on Tafelberg road as the wind speed is predicted to increase throughout the morning. This could also potentially impact on the deployment of aerial firefighting support this morning.

“More than 250 firefighters from the City of Cape Town, SANParks – Table Mountain National Working on Fire and the Volunteer Wildfire Services remain on the ground, fighting the fire on various fronts.”

The fire started on Sunday around 8:45am close to Hospital Bend. It moved up towards Rhodes Memorial and then towards the University of Cape Town upper campus.

The students living on campus have been evacuated and the City is working with the university in coordinating accommodation for affected students. Gift of the Givers is distributing food to 4,000 UCT students and locals can get involved.

Western Cape Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC, Anton Bredell, said the provincial disaster management continues to monitor the ongoing fire and support the City of Cape Town and its partners.

The blaze also caused some damage to infrastructure, including destroying the historic Mostert’s Mill next to the M3.

Unfortunately, two firefighters were injured yesterday and taken to hospital.

Working on Fire reports that none of its teams have suffered any injuries. The WOF stats on Monday morning for the fire so far include: 115 WOF Firelighters Deployed – 82 males and 33 Females, 8 Management Staff, 2 Fire Trucks 4000l tank, 2 Strike Units 1500l tank, 3 Buses, 4 Helicopters, 2 Spotters, 7 Vehicles Deployed, 411 tons of water dropped, Water source – sea, dams, swimming pools, 37 Hour fly time, 7 Bases on duty/standby, and Bombed 20 drops at UCT 15 tons of water total.

UCT Library Devastation of Historical Reading Room

The UCT Library before and after. Photo: FB/Zama Airy Mvulane

UCT Executive Director, Ujala Satgoor, confirmed that the disaster struck at the heart of the university’s library.

“I write this message with a deep sense of sorrow and loss at the havoc and devastation it wrought upon the Reading Room of the Jagger Library.

“As some of us watched, from on-site, with horror and helplessness this elegant and historical library burn, I can only imagine the shock and horror you must have felt as you watched the news reports and pictures of this destruction,” she wrote.

Satgoor said the Reading Room is completely gutted, while the fire detection system managed to trigger the fire shutters, thereby preventing the spread to other parts of the library.

“Some of our valuable collections have been lost. However, a full assessment can only be done once the building has been declared safe and we can enter the building. An official statement is forthcoming and until such time I request that individuals refrain from speculation and conjecture.”

Residents near the fire are advised to take some precautionary steps, including:

  • Remaining Hydrated.
  • Keeping windows and doors closed until further notice, as protection against smoke and heat.
  • Keeping pets indoors, where possible.
  • Moving garden furniture that is flammable undercover, where possible.

If the situation gets worse, residents will be alerted timeously.

In the event of an emergency, please contact:

  • City of Cape Town Emergency Services: 021 480 7700 or 107 if you are using a cell phone.
  • Provincial Emergency Number: 112.
  • Table Mountain National Park: 021 957 4700.

Sources include, SAPeople, City of Cape Town, Working on Fire