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'St Francis Bay fire could have been started by informal dwellers' Mayor

Dec 18, 2018
'St Francis Bay fire could have been started by informal dwellers' Mayor

Speaking to a local broadcaster, Kouga Local Municipality Executive Mayor, Horatio Hendricks, said the fire that gutted homes in St Franciss Bay on Tuesday could have been started by residents of a nearby informal settlement near Sea Vista.

He said that early suspicions are that the fire could have been started perhaps to clear the bush for more informal dwellings. However, the fire quickly got out of hand, fanned by strong gale force winds.

“What happened is that everyone panicked and everybody started wetting their thatch roofs, which created low pressure to where the water was actually needed [by firefighters],” he added.

“So, we actually had to close off a few streets because they were crating low pressure and the firemen could not use the fire hydrants.”

That’s not all, the municipality had to also ask aircraft and drones vacate the air space above St Francis Bay, as they were hampering efforts to fight the fire.

“We also ask that residents and visitors stay away from the affected area.”

In the end, the municipality confirmed that around 12 houses, many with thatched roofs, were completely gutted down after catching embers from the runaway fires.

“We have about four streets in St Francis affected – it’s not a big area, it’s a very narrow passage,” Mayor Hendricks said.

The fires that have since been contained were burning between Harbour Road and Assissi Drive at St Francis Bay

“A few other properties were also damaged but not to the same extent. The actual number will be confirmed once we are confident the fire is under control,” the municipality said.

It added that Kouga fire-fighters on the ground were being assisted by Kou-kamma and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro firefighters as well as volunteers to put out the fire.

No one injured in St Francis Bay fire

The Kouga Municipality said that it also requested back-up from the Sarah Baartman District Municipality.

“SAPS will be patrolling the area to prevent any looting.”

No one was injured in the fire.

Earlier on, the Kouga Local Municipality ordered the evacuation of residents and holiday-makers in the surrounding area, along St Francis Drive up to Assissi Drive, due to the fire.

“We ask that people stay away from the affected area. If you live in the area and are concerned about your safety, please go to the municipal office where an evacuation centre has been set up,” the municipality said.

Social media has also seen a pouring of sympathy for the residents of St Francis Bay. St Francis Bay was trending on Twitter because of the fire.

Several residents, who are away from the town for the Festive Season holidays have also taken to social media appealing for desperate information on the status of their own homes.

Image supplied by Julie Harrison

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