From the news desk

Farm houses in line of fire in Simonsberg blaze

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A team of over 80 firefighters is battling to save farm houses from a blaze in the Simonsberg, which has been burning for the past three days.

Stellenbosch municipality assistant fire chief Craig van Reenen told News24 the crew was prioritising protecting lives and homes currently in danger.

“The team is surrounding the fire to stop it from spreading to the farm houses,” he said.

While it was suspected that arson may be behind the blaze, no witnesses or informants had come forward to substantiate this, Van Reenen said.

Cape Winelands Fire Services chief Danie Wilds said the presence of clouds was an indication that there may be wind on the way.

“This will make it so much harder for the guys on the ground.”

A total of 2 600 hectares, including timber plantations and vineyards, had already been destroyed, Wilds said.

Eighty-two firefighters were tackling he inferno, and helicopters were water-bombing it.

“One property owner has also paid for two helicopters from his own pocket to assist in dousing the flames. That is a costly move, as it costs on average about R30 000 per hour for these choppers.”

Wilds said Cape Nature, the Simonsberg Conservancy, Working on Fire, the Fire Protection Association and the Drakenstein, Stellenbosch and West Coast District municipalities had been instrumental in getting the fire under control.

Crews had been overwhelmed by donations of water, cooldrinks, and lunch from companies and individuals.

“It is encouraging to see that people care. It makes the job easier,” Wilds said. News24

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