Updated at 6 p.m. GMT April 18, 2021
More than 200 firefighters supported by four helicopters battled a wildfire Sunday that was pushed by strong winds into the University of Cape Town. Several buildings, some historical, were damaged including the Jagger Library, which houses priceless African studies collections, unique manuscripts, and personal papers.
Other structures damaged were the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant and Mostert’s Mill, South Africa’s oldest working windmill built in 1796.
The wind pushed the fire across the M3 highway which connects downtown Cape Town to the southern suburbs.
Times Live reported that two firefighters were hospitalized with serious burns — one from the City of Cape Town and another from Working on Fire — according J.P. Smith, a Cape Town security official.
In a statement, Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) said initial investigations show that a fire suspected to have been left unattended by a vagrant is believed to have been the cause of the runaway blaze, which required the evacuation of hundreds of students from the University of Cape Town residences in Rosebank.
Heartbreaking to see the University of Cape Town like this. Greatly appreciative of all the firefighters and first responders who are working tirelessly to get the Table Mountain fire under control. pic.twitter.com/7fp87e2LZu
— PetersenLab_UCT (@PetersenLab_UCT) April 18, 2021
Originally published at 11:16 a.m. GMT April 18, 2021
A wildfire on the slopes above the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa spread into the campus and Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) Sunday. The city government reports there has been significant damage to homes, a restaurant, and historical structures since the blaze started at about 8:45 a.m.
University students were ordered to evacuate as the fire spread quickly, pushed by strong winds.
IOL reported that Working on Fire general manager Melany Duthie-Surtie said the Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment, Working on Fire in the Western Cape, had dispatched 58 firefighters and four helicopters to assist the TMNP in the suppression effort.
TMNP spokesperson Babalwa Dlangamandla said, “After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire.”
Executive Mayor Dan Plato noted that at least one firefighter was being treated in a hospital for burn injuries. Property has been damaged, including private homes, the Rhodes Memorial restaurant, UCT Library, and historical structures including the Mostert’s Hill windmill.
Mayor Dan Plato visited the site to thank those involved in firefighting efforts.
“I wish to express our gratitude for the efforts of firefighters who have been working non-stop to bring this massive fire under control,” the Mayor said. “It is saddening to note that property and historic buildings have been damaged by this fire. It is tragic that literary treasures have been lost at the UCT library, but I have been informed that some of the most valuable works were saved by the quick activation of roller doors. Our attention and support remains with firefighters and all role players working to protect further loss of property.”