The SA Air Force’s (SAAF’s) Western Cape-based 22 Squadron, with pair of Oryx medium-transport rotorcraft, contributed in no small measure, alongside other disaster management elements, to bringing raging fires in the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) and adjacent areas under control in spite of bad weather conditions.
Working on Fire (WOF) helicopters were first to be dispatched to combat the fire that started on the mountain on 18 April and was spread by strong winds. These aircraft were forced to land by prevailing strong winds and low cloud which severely limited visibility.
When weather conditions allowed, the pair of Oryxes joined other rotorcraft on Tuesday this week.
According to the SAAF: “AFB Ysterplaat dispatched two Oryx helicopters following a distress call by the Provincial Disaster Management (PDM) to assist in extinguishing raging fires in and around the Table Mountain area. Aircrews attacked the blazing fires from north-east of Table Mountain towards Vredehoek through to the north-western side of the mountain.”
A hundred and three Bambi buckets and 206 000 litres of water were dropped. Aircrews flew a total of 9.4 hours using 3 552 litres of fuel. The Oryx helicopters landed safely at 13h35 and remained on standby until 18h00.
The SAAF Board commended AFB Ysterplaat, especially the involved aircrew from 22 Squadron, for their prompt response to the fire.
The fire is largely been contained and only a small crew is on the mountain monitoring the situation. At the peak of efforts, more than 250 firefighters were deployed along with four helicopters.
SANParks estimates the fire destroyed 600 hectares of land, all carrying endemic fynbos, in the TMNP.