UPDATE | Rhodes memorial fire: Firefighter injured, UCT evacuates students as runaway veldfire rages on | News24


  • A City of Cape Town firefighter sustained burn wounds while battling a blaze at Rhodes Memorial.
  • Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) said an initial investigation showed the fire might have been sparked by a vagrant.
  • UCT confirmed it was currently evacuating students. 

A firefighter sustained burn wounds on Sunday during the massive fire raging at Rhodes Memorial, on the slopes of Table Mountain, as the University of Cape Town (UCT) says it is evacuating students.

According to the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services, the firefighter was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Table Mountain National Park’s (TMNP) fire manager, Philip Prins, said: “We currently have 129 firefighters on the line from TMNP, NCC Wildfires; Working on Fire, City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services; Volunteer Wildfire Services.”

He added they were expecting more firefighters to contain the blaze.

“TMNP and the City of Cape Town have four helicopters currently operating in the area. There are numerous other water tankers and firefighting vehicles on the scene managed between TMNP and the City of Cape Town,” Prins said. 

According to the TMNP, an initial investigation showed the blaze might have been sparked by a vagrant.

“It should be noted that due to the extreme fire danger index for today – which is red with temperatures of 36 degrees noted and an extremely low relative humidity of under 10% – the fire spread rapidly in the direction of Rhodes Memorial.”

The veldfire has destroyed parts of the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant and Tea Garden located on the mountain’s slopes. The TMNP urged all hikers within the Newlands and Rhodes Memorial area to evacuate with immediate effect.

UCT evacuates students

The fire has already spread to the veld above the University of Cape Town (UCT) upper campus and to areas below the M3.

The university confirmed it had started evacuating students and they were being taken to predetermined locations.

“All UCT students have been evacuated from campus by emergency services support staff. We have taken them to predetermined locations,” its spokesperson, Elijah Moholola, said.

Firefighters are battling a fire at UCT. (Supplied)


Firefighters are battling a fire at UCT. (Supplied)


Firefighters are battling a fire at UCT. (Supplied)

He added the university would continue to work with and support SANParks and the City of Cape Town to extinguish the blaze.

According to reports, the Mostert Mill below UCT’s upper campus was also on fire. The mill is an historic landmark which was constructed in 1796 on what was once known as Welgelegen farm. It is a Cape truncated-cone tower mill, and is characterised by its thatch roof.

Mostert Mill below UCT upper campus on fire as a veld fire raged on Sunday. (Jaco Marais/Netwerk)

Structures burnt after a fire ravaged it. (Supplied)

The Mostert Mill after the fire swept through. (Ci

The Mostert Mill after the fire swept through. (City of Cape Town)

The Mostert Mill after the fire swept through. (Ci

The Mostert Mill after the fire swept through. (City of Cape Town)

Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell urged the public to stay away.

“The public is urged to avoid the area and allow the authorities to do their work. The wind is slowly picking up, which is a cause for concern. The City of Cape Town firefighting service as well as teams from SANParks and Working on Fire are on the scene already.”

Bredell added the authorities on the ground would inform members of the public immediately should the situation become more serious.

Caution urged

Disaster Risk Management spokesperson Charlotte Powell said at this stage, they have asked residents to be cautious.

“Close all windows and doors to prevent drafts and reduce heat. Should there be an immediate threat to your property, damp down your garden using a hose or irrigation system.”

She added Disaster Risk Management was monitoring the situation closely.

“Wildfire creates smoky conditions, so it’s important for everyone to reduce exposure to smoke. Wildfire smoke irritates your eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Children, pregnant women, people living with asthma and heart disease need to be especially careful,” Powell said.

Members of the public have started bringing donations of water and other essentials to the Roeland Street fire station. 

“One of the major contributors to the rapid rate of spread was the very old pine trees and their debris. The fire created its own wind that further increased the rate of spread. The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread,” said Prins.

Meanwhile the Cape of Good Hope SPCA has inspectors monitoring the situation.

“It is currently unsafe to enter the area. Once it is safe our team will search the area for injured or distressed wild animals,” the organisation said on its Facebook page.

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