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Firefighters battle 17 000 fires in the Western Cape since December

Cape Town – Firefighters in the Western Cape have responded to 17 000 fires since the start of the fire season in December, local government MEC Anton Bredell said on Monday. 2017-03-13 20:24
James de Villiers, News24

"Ten years ago, the Western Cape experienced an estimated 12 000 fires for the full year. Over the past three months alone, we have recorded more than 17 000 fires across the province," said Bredell in a statement.

He said extreme conditions, strong winds and high temperatures along with dry conditions in particular, have contributed to the current situation.

Fires in Cape Town on Saturday and Sunday killed 11 people, the city's fire and rescue services said.

Residents in Imizamo Yethu fled with their belongings through narrow alleys between the corrugated iron homes to the safety of nearby tar roads, but two were trapped in the flames and died, Theo Layne of the city's fire and rescue services said on Saturday morning.

He said emergency workers had battled to get close to the fire because people had dumped their belongings in the road as they evacuated.

Emergency shelter had been made available for the estimated 15 000 people displaced by the fire.

Bredell said 97% of fires in the Western Cape were extinguished within the first hour.

"We want to call on the public to use extreme caution around open flames. In the current conditions, any open flame can swiftly wreak havoc and devastation," Bredell said.