Tuesday, March 3, 2015

FIRE IN NOORDHOEK - ON THE GROUND REPORT

Living in the Noordhoek Valley the past 36 hours has been rather like being on the set of Apocalypse Now (remember the epic movie?)

Social media reports of the big fire particularly in the Noordhoek Valley have been rather misleading and possibly contributed to panic rather than helped he situation.

A tweet by @vanhaywood that did little to help matters on Monday:



The tweet was picked up by big tweeters such as @KFM and @CapeTown and retweeted without verfication, even by the Lodge itself, which may have retweeted under some pressure.

However, this was the area looked like, via a photo from the beach taken at about the same time as the tweet:


The fire at 6.30 pm Monday. The Chappies road separates the lower Chapman's Peak area from the mountain.

This is how things played out after the arrival of the "Muizenberg Fire" #capefire late on Sunday 1 March.

Living in the area as I do with my family, my first inkling of the big fire was 01h00 Monday morning when I was woken up by the smell of smoke. The fire was approximately 300 metres away and moving relatively slowly. Having stayed where I do long before the really big fire of the year 2000, I can confirm that the fire of 1 March on moved a lot more slowly.




The fire above San Michele - top Topaz Way.


Noordhoek Manor and surrounding area was advised to evacuate and rightly so due to a large infestation of pine on the property of landowner, SA National Parks, which had re-grown there since the big fire of 2000.

The Noordhoek Crisis Centre was convened at the NGK property near the Farm Village by experienced volunteer, Athos. Athos and others were intimately involved as volunteers in fighting the big fires in year 2000 where they were hosted at the Noordhoek Farm Village by then-owner, Jeremy Wiley.

According to Athos, this morning, 3 March at the Crisis Management Centre, a considerable number of "mistruths have been perpetuated" by large media groups, apparently based on erroneous social media reports. In fact, there was anger among certain of the volunteers interviewed, in this regard (especially about a Facebook message that stated the Lodge has burned to the ground). Admittedly, access to the Far South was severly limited on March 2nd, with huge grid locks on the Main Road Kalk Bay and all the other roads closed. However there is palpable concern in the crisis centre that panic was seeded by, among others, the following reports:


  • Monkey Valley Resort "was evacuated". According to house front staff there, a conference was moved to a lodge in Simon's Town yesterday owing to reasonable concerns, but the Lodge remained open.

The Lodge - Tuesday morning 09h00. Conference was moved to Simon's Town

  • Lodge appealed for "urgent assistance". According to Lodge staff and PRO, Jenny, a call was put out this morning for water bombing assistance from fire helicopters.  At that stage the fire was still 200 metres away and there were four fire tenders from CCT on patrol immediately above the Lodge on Chapman's peak.
  • Four houses were burned in Noordhoek. One of them was the "former Chaplin Estate", Noordhoek Estate. In fact, Athos explains that no houses were raised or even burned, although there was some damage to fences and external perimeters.
The Crisis Control Centre "wishes that somebody would have spoken to them first" because the misinformation panicked a number of Beach Road residents, who came to the Centre in alarm. Volunteers were however excellent and a highly efficient operation was set up.


Noordhoek's Crisis Centre, located at the NGK Hall, opposite Noordhoek Farm Village. Coordinator, Athos, on the right.

Fire control at the Monkey Valley Lodge:

Shortly after 8 a.m., helicopters were diverted back to Noordhoek Valley and resumed assistance in slowing the progress of the fire, which was burning slowly through (mainly indigenous) brush above Chapman's Peak.




From the roof of the closest Monkey Valley unit to Chapman's Peak. Smouldering brush. Water bombing in progress.


Significantly, sea water has been used for the first time, as far as I am aware in fire control by helicopter in the Cape Town area.

Here are my photographic  impressions of this fire:- (please do not use without contacting me first for licence)

San Michele Fire


 Volunteers fighting the fire above Noordhoek Manor, Monday 08h45 Monday 2 March

 One of three San Michele houses under threat - 05h00 Monday 2 March
 A pile of wood, ironically cleared from the waste of the Yr 2000 Fires, catches alight.
 Emergency fire fighting tenders finally arrive from the Noordhoek Manor side 05h00.
 Water bombing in the TM National Parks area near their regional office 08h00 Monday.
 Recollections of Apocalypse Now




Water was uplifted from the pond at Silvermine Retirement Village.



Fire from bottom Silvermine Road and Noordhoek Beach - Monday 2 March c 19h00





 Tranquil scene with turbulence in the backdrop.

A bloody sunset at the end of a bloody day.
From Noordhoek Beach - the bloody sunset

Last night
Above Chapman's Peak - slow moving - thanks to volunteers and wind dying down - 9 pm
11.30 pm Burning above TM National Park's local office near Silvermine / Ou Kaapse Weg intersection. Sorry no tripod!


Today: Tuesday 3 March
Fire largely under control although helicopters continued to water bomb - in some cases using sea water. "no homes burned (down) confirmed coordinator of crisis centre in the Valley.



From Noordhoek Beach parking area - 08.30 a.m.


Main residence, Monkey Valley Resort - survived


The arrival of Working for Fire helicopters, bombing commences and a mixture of staff and volunteers celebrates - from the roof of the most vulnerable structure at Monkey Valley.

 Jenny, the Hotel PR is on the left.


So, Cape Town and its citizens, especially those in Far South, owe a large debt of thanks to our hugely professional fire fighters, pilots, fire volunteers, citizen volunteers and responsible social media community who helped keep things together.

About Gareth Griffiths

Gareth Griffiths is a senior member of the Southern Africa Freelancers' Association, a professional photographer living in Noordhoek and Editor of To Build magazine. www.tobuild.co.za

1 comment:

  1. Great photo's - very poignant. Shows the full extent of what must have been a terrible night! Glad you made it through in one piece.

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