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'TMNP fire set with intent' - Car seen along Hospital Bend linked to April blaze

24 June 2021 4:48 PM
Tags:
SANParks
Table mountain fire
fire investigation
Rob Erasmus
Enviro Wildlife Services
independent fire investigation

Afternoon Drive host John Maytham chats to wildlife investigator Rob Erasmus about the independent report on the Table Mountain blaze
  • SANParks has released the findings of an independent report on the wildfire that ravaged over 600 hectares of Table Mountain and parts of UCT
  • The investigation by Enviro Wildlife, led by Rob Erasmus, has found that that the fire was not started by homeless people as was initially alleged
  • The summary report has also ruled out natural causes as a possible reason for the devastating blaze
  • Investigators have concluded that the fire was started maliciously after footage showing a suspicious vehicle driving slowly near Hospital Bend two minutes before the fire started

An independent report has revealed that the devastating Table Mountain fire that damaged iconic Cape Town landmarks in April was started deliberately.

The fire started on Sunday morning 18 April 2021 in the area known as Hospital Bend close to Philip Kgosana Drive.

SANParks commissioned Enviro Wildlife Services, led by Rob Erasmus, to investigate the wildfire that burned about 600 hectares of land on Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), including historical sites such as the Mostert's Mill, several UCT buildings and Rhodes Memorial restaurant.

Through a process of elimination, the investigation has found that the fire was not started by a homeless person or "vagrant activity" as was initially suggested.

The investigation also confirmed that the origin of the fire was not natural causes, Erasmus tells CapeTalk.

Instead, CCTV footage points to a suspicious white vehicle that pulled off onto the shoulder of the road before driving very slowly until it reached a point close to where the fire had originated.

Erasmus says officials were unfortunately unable to determine the vehicle's registration number.

He says the investigation is ongoing.

We studied CCTV footage and we were able to determine that a white vehicle, a white sudan, approached inbound on the Settler's Way area and then pulled over... and started driving very slowly at a walking pace all along the shoulder of the road along Hospital Bend for about 400 metres.

Rob Erasmus, Wildlife Manager - Enviro Wildfire Services

Just at the site where the fire originated [the white vehicle] then moved back onto the road and carried along down Nelson Mandela Drive. Less than two minutes later, smoke started coming out of the bushes approximately 30 to 40 metres from where the vehicle had been.

Rob Erasmus, Wildlife Manager - Enviro Wildfire Services

As far as the causes are concerned, everything is pointing to us that the fire was set with intent.

Rob Erasmus, Wildlife Manager - Enviro Wildfire Services

Once we confirmed the origin of the fire we then started looking at the potential causes of the fire which we put into three categories: The first category was as a result of natural causes... those were definitely ruled out.

Rob Erasmus, Wildlife Manager - Enviro Wildfire Services

We then looked at the possibility of what we called accidental/negligent, which would have included the vagrant fire which was suggested right in the early beginning, but there was no sign of any homeless or vagrant activity at the site - no campfire, no discarded items. Also, the fire did not start in a gully or water line which is consistent with homeless people's campsites.

Rob Erasmus, Wildlife Manager - Enviro Wildfire Services

We studied video footage for up to 3 hours before the fire started and there was absolutely no activity whatsoever - no vagrants, no sign of fire or smoke, and also no sign of any hikers or cyclists in that area.

Rob Erasmus, Wildlife Manager - Enviro Wildfire Services



24 June 2021 4:48 PM
Tags:
SANParks
Table mountain fire
fire investigation
Rob Erasmus
Enviro Wildlife Services
independent fire investigation

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