Wildfire scorches buildings, leaves two people injured in Cape Town, South Africa


A large wildfire in Cape Town's Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), South Africa, left several buildings damaged, nine structures destroyed, and two firefighters injured, officials reported Sunday, April 18, 2021. As of Tuesday morning, April 20, crews said the blaze has been 'largely contained.'

In a statement, the TMNP said the fire created its own wind, which further increased its speed. "The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread."

Several buildings were damaged, including the University of Cape Town, wherein a fire spread to the veld above the upper campus. Three buildings in the university were also destroyed.

The Jagger Library’s main reading room, where rare African books and manuscripts were kept, was scorched and some of the "priceless" works had been gutted.

Six other structures near Woolsack Drive were burned down. Mostert's Mill, a historic windmill built around 1796, has been badly damaged, according to Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services.

Around 250 firefighters were deployed on Sunday, along with four helicopters, to combat the massive flame. Two of them were injured but had been taken to the hospital.

"Never have I experienced a fire that spread so unpredictably fast. I have so much respect for our firefighters," said a resident named Lisette Lombard. She said she was "trying to outrun the fire," and made it to safety, but her car had been "destroyed."

After the initial investigation, South Africa's National Parks said a "vacated vagrant fire" may have caused the blaze. 

"Due to the extreme Fire Danger Index for today, which is Red with temperatures of 36 °C (96.8 °F) noted and an extremely low relative humidity of under 10 percent, the fire spread rapidly in the direction of Rhodes Memorial."

As of Tuesday morning, Carelse announced that the wildfire has been "largely contained" on its third consecutive day.

"Three days since the start of the devastating Rhodes Memorial blaze, the fire has been largely contained with firefighting efforts now focused on Deer Park and the Disa Park towers in Vredehoek."

"Crews have worked tirelessly and the wind having died down considerably, has given them some respite."

Featured image credit: @nyeusi_waasi/Twitter

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  1. So, why was the university not better prepared for such an event? Destruction of libraries can often seem to be policy (witness the Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide) Surely that was not the case here. Academic arrogance, a commonplace characteristic, could provide a guide.

  2. IT WAS DELIBERATE ARSON! Not in 1 location, but a few! Wildlife is being burnt and rescuers can’t keep up, just as the brave fire fighters! Orchestrated chaos, which by now the USA is beginning to experience and understand! Wake up world!

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