SANParks has confirmed that the fire raging above Kirstenbosch was started by natural causes – a massive rockfall which generated enough heat and sparks to set the mountain on fire.

The fire seemed to be under control last night, but has since flared up. It has burnt through the lush, forested hiking areas from Skeleton Gorge to Nursery Ravine, and continues to spread left and right along the mountain.

Rob Erasmus from Enviro Wildfire Services Western Cape launched an investigation into the cause of the fire, which started halfway up Skeleton Gorge on Monday afternoon and was still raging into Tuesday afternoon.

“We can confirm on behalf of SANParks that the cause of this fire was as a result of a massive rock fall that caused huge amounts of heat and sparks to be generated when the falling boulders struck other rocks, setting the grass and leaves alight which then quickly spread up the steep slope,” Enviro Wildfire Services posted on Facebook. 

“The (following) photos show one of the boulders that ended up in the ravine (the 2-way radio is shown for scale), while the second photo demonstrates the steep terrain high up on the slope where the rocks originated.”

Table Mountain National Park fire manager Philip Prins said the fire has now spread from Skeleton Gorge and burnt through Nursery Ravine.

“We had it well under control last night around 6pm, the fire was well contained. Unfortunately due to the inaccessibility of the terrain, there was quite a big flare up early this morning, at about 1am,” Prins said. “At this stage the fire is spreading again.”

He said the crews working overnight had stood down and fresh crews had been brought in this morning.

“We’ve got about 96 firefighters on the scene, 3 helicopters and a spotter plan that’s in the air,” he said. “They are concentrating on left flank and right flank trying to contain the spread of the fire.”

You can watch the full update below.

Enviro Wildfire Services has previously shut down the assumption that arsonists must be at work when many fires simultaneously ignite in the Cape.

“To make statements that because a number of fires are occurring at the same time, it must be the work of arsonists, suggests an ignorance as to why and how fires start,” the team posted on its educational Facebook page. “If the conditions are right, any spark has the potential of starting a fire, and we can assure you with 100% certainty there are hundreds of sparks happening every single day in and around the Western Cape.”

Related: Arsonist sets four fires on Table Mountain

They urge people to do their best to stop a spark as soon as it ignites, because a single spark can turn into a raging out-of-control fire in seconds.

Here are some of the reasons that fires can start naturally or by accident:

“It is known that veldfires can start as a result of lightning, rolling rocks, broken glass, fireworks, overheating machinery, electric fences, discarded cigarettes, malicious acts, shorting electric cables, car accidents, cutting and welding, carbon fragments from vehicle exhausts, camping fires, actions to destroy evidence from a crime, use of chainsaws and brush-cutters, controlled burning operations, unsupervised children, etc.”


Picture: Twitter @GigiLaidler

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