Fire authorities at Barrydale in the Overberg region of the Western Cape say they hope to bring a wildfire in the area under control this weekend. The fire has been burning in the mountains between Grootvadersbos and Barrydale for about a week now.
A firefighter also lost his life in the blaze. All hands are on board in efforts to put out the week-long blaze in the area. The hot and windy conditions have hampered their attempts.
Cape Nature, Working on Fire, the Overberg District Fire Department, and the Fire Protection Agency have worked tirelessly to stop the fire. The teams hope to put an end to the wildfire by this weekend. Back-burns have now been created to do this.
While the town itself is not at risk, the surrounding fruit farms in the mountains are.
Ground and aerial teams are working around the clock.
“The end is in sight as is Barrydale. So, the plan right now is to bring the fire around to safeguard Barrydale. Barrydale is not under immediate threat. There are air operations going on at the moment. We got a helicopter bombing high up in the fire to buy us time to bring a counter fire the backburn around. So, all things being equal, if operations are successful today, we should close this in by tonight completely,” says Overberg District fire chief, Reinhard Gendenhuys.
Apart from the small community, the area is also home to several fruit farms. The fires came down the mountain and threatened farms at one stage, but were luckily put out by the farmers, their workers, and the firefighters.
Geldenhuys says in spite of this, there have been minimal damages to infrastructure so far.
“We managed to keep it out of the farms. You must remember this is a massive team effort. So, many farmers arriving to help, we’ve got a huge amount of people from Working on Fire, Cape Nature, ourselves. So, in that massive effort, we’ve been able to hold it above the farms the whole time. So, there’s been no direct infrastructure damage on farms. There was one guest house that burnt down completely last Sunday but the rest we managed to contain it up to this stage.”
Funeral arrangements of firefighter who died
On the far side of the town, the family of a firefighter, Melio van Rooi, is preparing for his funeral. The 25-year-old died from smoke inhalation while fighting the fire last week. He worked at the district fire department.
His parents, Chantal and Pieter van Rooi, say the loss of their eldest child is tremendous, but that he made them very proud with his dedication to his profession.
“He was our pride in the house. That same Sunday I said to him, don’t you want to move to the ambulance services and he said ‘no, this is where I want to be, and where I want to die if that should happen.’ He always said he was proud to wear the uniform. We also wore uniforms in the past. And he said he will take pride in wearing the uniform,” they say.
Van Rooi will be laid to rest on Sunday. He leaves behind his parents, siblings, and a one-year-old son.