Residents evacuating as St Francis Bay fires flare up again

JANUARY 27, 2016

Westerly wind reportedly began fanning more fires in the St Francis Bay area on Wednesday afternoon, hours after Kouga Local Municipality firefighters and disaster management teams had taken a break from fighting other fires on Tuesday night. The fires began on Saturday.

@stfrancisbay, the Twitter site for St Francis Bay, reported that residents from Sea Vista were evacuating together with business in the industrial area and that Tarragona Road had been closed.

"Do not travel up Taragona Rd, traffic is congested and hindering the community who is trying to flee the fire," the Twitter page also advised.

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Image: Cnr R330 and Tarragona Rd at around 15:00, Sea Vista residents have reportedly been advised to leave immediately.

Reports from Algoa FM News say the fire did jump the road to the Sea Vista side, but Kouga Municipality firefighters were able to extinguish it. A helicopter has been dousing the area throughout the day. A second chopper is on the way.

It is now understood that the Sarah Baartman District Municipality will also be sending firefighters from other local municipalities to assist in bringing the blaze under control.

Battling the blaze

Rain on late Monday morning reportedly brought some relief for Kouga Local Municipality fire-fighters and other disaster management teams, who have been working since Saturday to contain a runaway blaze in the area.

Two helicopters have been involved with water-bombing the blaze while a third helicopter was expected.

On Monday morning, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said that a flare is believed to have been used to start the fire. 

It appeared that the flare landed in a patch of bush near Sea Vista on Saturday, spokesperson Paul Hurley said. The NSRI was helping with the firefighting effort.

The Kouga Local Municipality subsequently opened a case of arson with the local police.

The fire began at the Irma Booysen Flora Reserve, which is adjacent to the Thyspunt area - one of the proposed sites for Eskom's new nuclear power station. 

A similar fire destroyed or damaged 76 houses (at a cost that was estimated to be in the millions) in St Francis Bay in November 2012. The fire started at the Royal Wharf developments and was also fanned by a strong westerly wind.

Meanwhile, police in St Francis Bay on Monday said that they are disturbed by malicious reports in the media of a flare may have caused the ravaging flames in the St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis area.

"An enquiry docket was opened to determine the cause of fire,"said the police. 

'The fire that was reported to have started on Saturday, around 2pm, and immediately relevant role players were summoned to the scene.

"The affected residents were assisted and evacuated to safe areas. 

"The police have since opened an enquiry, which is to investigate the cause of fire, and not a case of arson as it was initially reported."

The police said that, at this stage, they are not in possession of any information that could have sparked the fire in the area. 

"Anyone with information that would assist police investigation is urged to contact Crime Stop 08600 10111or St Francis Bay SAPS at 042 200 1818."   

Images: @stfrancisbay via Twitter.