Expatica news

CORRECTED: Fires rip through S.Africa’s drawcard winelands

Runaway fires savaged South Africa’s scenic winelands on Tuesday, stoked by “perfect conditions” of strong winds and hot weather.

A code red has been declared in the tourist area between the top wine producing towns of Franschoek and Paarl where three helicopters and 120 firefighters are fighting the blaze.

“It’s burning up in the mountains now, but it’s not contained,” said Liesl Brink, incident command spokesman for the fire fighting effort.

Two worker cottages have been burned and two farms had to be temporarily evacuated. No deaths have been reported.

“Six thousand, two hundred hectares (15,321 acres) have burned already. It was a combination of farmland and alien vegetation,” said Brink.

The fire started on Sunday in Franschoek, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, and is moving toward nearby Paarl which lies slightly to the north-west.

“It is moving towards Paarl, the wind is blowing in that direction,” said Brink.

“Today we expect wind of 40 kilometres per hour (25 miles per hour) and a temperature of 34 to 37 degrees (Celsius, up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit). That would make it a bit more tricky to extinguish the fires.”

As the fire was on the mountains, there was “no immediate threat at this stage to residents in Paarl but it’s moving in that direction”, said Brink.

The cause of the fire was still unknown.

But said many fires at this time of year — when wind and hot summer months provided “perfect conditions for runaway fires” — had been shown to be caused by people, often children.

Back up teams have been called in from the city of Cape Town and from other provinces.

“The fire has been declared a code red meaning that we’ve used all of our available resources and are pulling all the resources that we can.”