Cape Town fires: Suspect being questioned as city probes arson link

The fire and smoke over Cape Town in an image taken at 7.30am.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux/TimesLIVE

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”

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 showed 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 for the moment, although 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 impact on this deployment.

“There are precautionary evacuations taking place in Vredehoek, but no evacuations were necessary overnight.”

On Monday residents were moved from properties in the Disa Park and Mountain View complex and from the Ministerial Estate by the city’s disaster risk management staff and volunteers

All schools in the Vredehoek area have been asked to evacuate.

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 a priceless African Studies collection.

Earlier, 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 were under way in Peppertree Road in Vredehoek after the fire spread towards the area overnight. The centre said it was aware 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, identity documents, passports, cash, cellphones, bottled water, non-perishable food, a set of clothing, a blanket and toiletries; and
  • 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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