Fire On Table Mountain
Just after 16:00 we saw smoke out of the window of our office but from the angle it looked like a building in the distance behind another building was on fire. Armed with my camera I walked down the corridor to see if I could get a better look from another angle, and met up with a few people who said it was actually the mountain itself. We love our mountain and are very protective of it, and fire is a regular problem, so we were all quite concerned, especially since Cape Town's fire department has been making headlines all week due to budget cuts and terrible working conditions. As citizens we all know how important our fire department is, but the administration is choking it to death to use the funds for other "projects".
I digress, though. Back to the fire. At first it was just a small area on the side of the mountain, but by 16:08 the slither had shot way up and the fire had expanded slightly to the right. Two helicopters were battling the fire but we could see that it just wouldn't be enough.
As the events developed I had an increasingly horrible suspicion that this fire may have been set by some idiot trying to prove that the fire department is understaffed, underpaid, and very, very necessary. I hope I am wrong.
By 16:17 the fire was much, much larger, covering a much wider area, having expanded drastically upwards and to the right. Everyone was commenting on how fast this all happened in such a short amount of time.
Back in my office at 16:28 I looked out the window to see that the fire had spread far enough to the right that we could see it past the side of the skyscraper that is blocking our view, and it was heading downwards, towards houses that are partway up the mountain.
At 16:32 I went up to the roof of the building to see if I could get a better view. Our building's windows haven't been cleaned in over a year, so I had been struggling to get any decent shots that didn't have grimy rain, fingerprint, or paint patches on the glass (the building was painted about six months ago, and they have yet to clean up the outside properly). Unfortunately the roof access is still closed off due to building repairs so, although I had a much better view as I could just see over the skyscraper that had been obscuring my view elsewhere, I had to stay inside and so was confronted with more dirty glass.
At 16:43 the entire CBD had been enveloped in think orangey-black smoke and the fire was high up on the mountain. I've never see it reach so far before. By now there were three helicopters bravely battling the blaze in high winds. There are dams and a few large pools in and near the CBD, so every once in a while you could see them duck down between buildings and then reappear a few minutes later with a filled bucket.
Back in my office at 16:57 I looked out the window to see that the fire is pretty much at the top line of houses on the side of the mountain. As it's a weekday, the homeowners are likely to be at work, so that means there are a number of pets in very serious danger. Already many wild animals that live on the mountain must have died. It freaks me out to think about such things.
At 17:03 the smoke had cleared a bit and wasn't so thick and black, and much of the fire that had been creeping to the top of the mountain, right on the left, had been put out, but the fire near the houses was still raging, as was the fire in the middle that had now actually reached right to the top of the mountain (I didn't initially see this as there were window blinds obscuring my view). Thankfully the cable car and cable stations are on the far right of the mountain so people who had been on top of the mountain could be successfully evacuated.
By 17:23 the fire had definitely reached the top of the mountain, so I don't know what that means now for the ability for the helicopters and fire fighters to fight it before it runs down the other side and threatens houses on the western side of the mountain.
I have taken photos, but with my film camera, so it will be a few days before the pictures are developed and I can post them in my blog. The funny thing is I was saying to a colleague just a few days ago that I need a digital camera for blogging moments, but I haven't yet quite found the perfect one for me.
[The photographs in this post were graciously lent to me by René Nortje, who has a digital camera built into his cellular phone, unlike me (I don't even have a phone...but that's another story).]
Labels: Cape Town