Report and photos by JP Du Plessis
A lightning storm on January 16th ignited several wildfires in the Cederberg area. One of the fires started on de Pakhuys guest farm in the Agter Pakhuis valley, but that was put out in a matter of hours. Some 50km away, however, a second fire raged in Wupperthal, destroying the community’s profitable tea fields and an unconfirmed number of houses.
Over the course of the next eight days the fire spread slowly and eventually made its way past Heuningvlei, into the Rocklands area. The fire swept through the climbing zone, where it is still burning in places, devastating vegetation throughout the reserve. A strong south-westerly wind, however, pushed this inferno back into the Agter Pakhuis valley.
Several buildings were raised to the ground on Klein Pakhuis farm, but thankfully firefighters managed to protect buildings on Damplaas and Alpha Excelsior – but don’t be fooled: it was a narrow escape.
Tragically, one person has died – Christo Fourie was driving down the Pakhuis Pass when flames engulfed his car. He and his workers fled on foot, but Mr Fourie was caught up in the fire.
Update – 25 January 10:00:
The fire is mostly out, but Rocklands is among the 500 square-km of land that’s been burnt clean. The horizon is clear of smoke and we are now able to start tallying the damage in detail.
There is a report on iol.co.za with a general overview of the extent of the fire and the damage caused.
The loss of wildlife is very sad. We’ve only explored a fraction of the burn zone, so we still have no idea what to expect out there. As you say, nature at work, hard as it may be for us to comprehend and understand.
As for the fate of Rocklands: that depends entirely on Cape Nature. They have shut down some areas because of “extreme eco-sensitivity” in the aftermath of some of the fires, I have yet to get word on what will happen with the climbing zone.
On Wednesday, January 16th, a lightning storm sparked several fires throughout the northern and central Cederberg mountains. Almost a week later, a fire that started in Wupperthal is slowly creeping up on Rocklands.
The fire is burning on both sides of the mountain pass. On the other side (at the Old Campsite – Kliphuis Campsite), it is burning alongside the R364. A fire department helicopter is also scouting the river valley at the eastern point of Rocklands, where the fire has crept into the dense brush at the waters edge.
Report and image by JP