Man arrested over Table Mountain blaze as arson allegations probed
Original blaze believed to have been caused by a fire left unattended by a vagrant, Table Mountain National Park says
A suspect was taken into custody on Sunday night as the City of Cape Town investigates reports about the original blaze being due to arson and of additional fires being started.
This was disclosed on Monday by mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.
“There is a lot of speculation about additional fires that were started, and whether the original fire was an act of arson. This will form part of investigations, but the city can confirm one suspect in his 30s was taken into custody last night in the vicinity of Devil’s Peak,” Smith said.
He said the suspect “was spotted by a resident who tracked him down with the help of his sons and the family’s dogs. The matter is with the police for investigation and further details will follow as they become available.”
Table Mountain National Park said initial investigations show a fire suspected to have been left unattended by a vagrant is believed to have been the cause of the original blaze.
The fire continues to rage on Monday and has spread in the direction of Vredehoek.
Smith said all efforts remain focused on active firefighting, though the fire is hard to reach in places.
“We hope aerial firefighting support can be deployed to douse the flames before they reach the urban edge. However, the wind could affect on this deployment.
Precautionary evacuations are taking place in Vredehoek, but no other evacuations were necessary overnight, he said.
So from this morning’s shot I took at 4am, the situation right now is this:— 𝕬𝖓𝖙𝖍𝖔𝖓𝖞 𝕸𝖔𝖑𝖞𝖓𝖊𝖆𝖚𝖝 (@AJGMolyneaux) April 19, 2021
It never looks as bad during the day but the wind is PUMPING. Fires very close to the towers in Vredehoek.#tablemountainfire #CapeTownFires #CapeTown pic.twitter.com/GmASAWCCCt
Smith commended firefighters and other teams involved in trying to douse the flames, and thanked the public “for opening their hearts and wallets to the firefighters, but also the students who were evacuated by the University of Cape Town (UCT)”.
On Sunday the blaze engulfed the Rhodes Memorial restaurant and parts of UCT, including the Jagger Library, which housed the priceless African Studies collection.
The city’s disaster risk management centre said no injuries to civilians have been reported to the disaster operations centre since the fire started.
Two firefighters were hospitalised for burn wounds on Sunday.
The centre said precautionary evacuations are under way in Peppertree Road in Vredehoek after the fire spread towards the area overnight.
The centre said some residents opted to evacuate in other parts of the suburb due to the smoke hanging over the area.
If asked to evacuate, the centre asked the public to remember the following:
- evacuate immediately and remember to take chronic medication, IDs, passports, cash, cellphones, bottled water, non-perishable food, a set of clothing, a blanket and toiletries;
- if evacuation is ordered, residents are requested to make use of wet towels or rags wrapped around their mouths and noses.
The centre said the SPCA will assist animals that are displaced.
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