Overstrand mountains burn, residents evacuated

The coastal towns of Onrus and Hawston were threatened by a massive fire on their doorstep.

A fire which broke out on 15 January 2015 rages in the mountains above Onrus, near Hermanus. Picture: Hansie Oosthuizen

CAPE TOWN - Relief came for residents of the small coastal village of Onrus, who had feared the worst when a massive mountain fire roared towards them on Thursday evening.

Firefighters had been battling an extensive blaze which broke out near Hawston earlier in the day.

By 8pm Overstrand Fire & Rescue Station Commander Angelo Aplon described the fire as "out of control".

Onrus resident Caroline Gabb said several homes and retirement villages closest to the flames were evacuated, and the entire community was on standby throughout the night.

Picture: Hansie Oosthuizen

"At 1:30 in the morning, people were out on the streets, looking up at the fire. Everyone was willing to help, and all we needed was to be told what to do," she told Eyewitness News .

Overstrand Fire and Rescue called in for help from City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services who were also assisting the Overberg Municipality with a vegetation fire in Grabouw at the same time.

While helicopters were able to water-bomb the flames before sundown, the fading light saw ground crews on their own.

Picture: Hansie Oosthuizen

It was a sleepless night for many residents who were anxiously waiting to see whether the fire would reach their homes.

Some of the evacuees spent the night in local churches.

Gabb said the strong winds fuelling the flames were a major concern, but luck was on their side.

"The wind was the thing that really had us all on tenterhooks. The wind was really, really strong and we kept hoping it would drop… luckily for us the rain came down when it did."

Picture: Caroline Gabb

The downpour helped contain the blaze and city fire crews were able to return back to base at 5am.

On 9 January, fire management organisation, Working on Fire, released statistics showing an increase in fires on Table Mountain compared to last season.

It added that the fire season started much earlier than usual due to adverse weather conditions.