SAAF helps fight Table Mountain fire


The South African Air Force (SAAF) provided Oryx helicopters to help fight the Table Mountain fire that began on Sunday 18 April. The fire is currently largely contained, but not out.

The SAAF’s resources were activated on Monday and were placed on standby, but helicopters could not initially fly due to strong winds. When conditions calmed on Tuesday 20 April, Working on Fire UH-1 Huey and SAAF Oryx helicopters dropped water on the fire on the slopes of Table Mountain.

South African National Parks (SANParks) thanked firefighters and others who helped contain the fire. “The devastating fires across the TMNP [Table Mountain National Park] have brought home the value of partnerships and working together as a community to manage this National park we all love. Without the collective efforts of the 125 TMNP rangers, the 170 fire and rescue workers, the South African National Defence Force, CoCT [City of Cape Town] personnel, law enforcement and the many volunteers, the damage, as devastating as it was, could have been much worse,” said SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni. “The immediacy of the reactions of fire-fighting teams from all areas of the Western Cape, their skill, courage and commitment ensured that the fire was mostly contained by Monday afternoon.”

The Rhodes Memorial Fire was reported at 09:00 AM on Sunday morning. TMNP/contract wildfire crews (NCC Wildfire) from the Newlands Firebase were dispatched immediately. Philip Prins, TMNP Fire Manager, co-ordinated the firefighters on the line from TMNP, NCC Wildfires, Working on Fire, CoCT Fire and Rescue Services and Volunteer Wildfire Services. TMNP and the CoCT had four helicopters operating in the area. The SA Air Force also made available two helicopters to assist with the fire.

“We also thank our 120 rangers who manage and protect this vast area of more than 28 000 hectares, recognizing the many challenges they face. To manage an urban park stretching from Signal Hill to Cape Point, we rely heavily on our communities to assist, alert and raise the alarm on disasters like this, which is exactly what happened on Sunday morning,” said Mketeni.

SANParks estimates that the fire has destroyed 600 hectares of land in the TMNP thus far.