Zukile Majova

Wildfires running through urban residential properties at high speed often result in dozens of lives lost.

Not in Cape Town where hundreds of residents worked with firefighters and other emergency services to rescue people, pets, evacuate other residents and even offer free accommodation to students evacuated from the University of Cape Town.

In a matter of hours, the city was sprawling with good Samaritans advising hikers and cyclists to abandon planned trips through the scenic Table Mountain Nature Reserve.

Others helped move cars off street parking to make way for emergency services to fight the blaze unhindered in an otherwise very busy metropolitan city.

“Any UCT student res students who have been directly affected by the fire are welcome to come over to Den Anker this evening. We will serve you a plate of food, you will need to provide us with proof of your res card,” Den Anker Restaurant said on Twitter.

Other residents provided support, water and food to various fire stations as over 150 firefighters, 26 fire trucks, four helicopters, SANPark Rangers and metropolice officers rallied to the front line.

Overwhelmed by the generosity of its residents, the City of Cape Town had to take charge and remind donors that “foodstuffs being donated should be sealed in accordance with Covid-19 protocols”.

“Public donations towards the firefighting efforts can be dropped off at the Roeland Street fire station. Anyone who wishes to provide donations is advised that the four items required are: water, energade, energy bars and eyegene.”

Judy Mckenzie, who even posted her cellphone number on Twitter said: “I am happy to accommodate 4-6 students. I am a UCT staff member and I live in Rosebank.”

Observers said the fire gutted vast areas of the Table Mountain Nature Reserve, parts of the city, the Rhodes Memorial and threatened UCT’s African Studies special collections library. 

The library houses priceless literature, newspapers and periodicals including the Great IsiXhosa dictionary, the isiXhosa newspapers Izimvo Zabantsundu and Isigidimi Sabantsundu.

Table Mountain National Park confirmed that the Rhodes Memorial fire was reported at 9am.

“TMNP/contract wildfire crews from the Newlands Firebase were dispatched immediately. 

“The location of the fire was immediately above Philip Kgosana Drive/Hospital Bend. 

“After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire.”

SANParks Acting Head of Communications said: “The Rhodes Memorial restaurant has unfortunately burnt down. The fire has also spread to the veld above the University of Cape Town upper campus and to areas below the M3.”

Video: @Artii_M

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