Fires Tear Through South Africa’s Wine Area


Pretoria: Fires which have been sweeping parts of South Africa’s Winelands regions have already cost millions in Rand in destroyed forestry and vineyards.

They come as the country is coping with a string of gloomy predictions about its economic growth and the South African Rand has plummeted against foreign currencies.

Wine Farmer Victor Sperling whose family owns the Del Haim farm near Stellenbosch said 95% of their forestry business had been destroyed.

“We’re trying to save the remaining 5% but it’s not looking good,” he said as helicopters dropped hundreds of litres of water to try to douse the flames.

He said his family had paid for helicopters to come and drop huge buckets of water over the flames after failing to bring the fire under control for the third day running.

The loss of the family’s forestry business after 16 years of nurturing and growing is estimated at about 3.5m Rand. If the trees had reached maturity, Mr Sterling said the value would have increased fivefold.

There is a growing suspicion that the fire may have been started deliberately adding to the pain of seeing decades of work going up in flames.

Volunteers and those employed under job creation schemes were working round the clock to try to stop the flames from sweeping through more vineyards, with the flames only 50 metres away in some cases.

“It’s very dangerous work,” Isaac Justin told Sky News as sweat poured down his cheek. He was one of several staff taken on by the Working for Water organisation battling to put out the fires.

Helicopters carrying giant slings of water repetitively showered the hills with water but with only limited success.

Dale Nortje from the Cape Winelands Fire  Service praised all the workers involved for their commitment and dedication in fighting the fires.

“They are highly motivated. Everyone realises this will have a big impact on everyone’s livelihoods and we have to stop it as soon as we can.”

A number of vineyard fields have already been destroyed, plunging the farming industry into more worry after a string of gloomy predictions about South Africa’s economic growth.

Sky News