Robinson Pass closed as fire rages

Cape Town – The Robinson Pass that links Oudtshoorn and Mossel Bay in the Western Cape was closed on Friday due to a raging fire, Working on Fire (WoF) said.

Traffic between the two towns was being diverted via George.

"Firefighters are working in extreme conditions as the weather is not favourable at this stage," said WoF spokesperson Lauren Howard.

The fire has been raging in the Ruitersbos area of the pass for four days, with two spotter planes, two air water bombers, two helicopters and a massive firefighting team trying to put it out.

More than 120 WoF firefighters and firefighters from Eden District Municipality, with help from local farmers, were trying to bring it under control.

Howard said the main focus on Friday was to secure a plantation in the area, and the eastern flank of Ruitersbos along the Robinson Pass.

'Very hot, very dangerous'

Successful backburns were conducted on Thursday night in an effort to stop the spread of the fire.

Gerald Becker, provincial traffic chief for Oudtshoorn, said fynbos was alight on both sides at the top of the Robinson Pass.

"It is very hot, and very dangerous," said Becker.

Motorists must drive from Oudtshoorn via George to get to Mossel Bay, and from Mossel Bay, go through George to get to Oudtshoorn.

Working on Fire, which falls under the Department of Environmental Affairs, has helped fight 11 veld and forests fires in the Western Cape since Sunday, January 7, said Howard.

No injuries have been reported yet.

Seven people were killed and at least 1 000 properties were damaged in a fire that raged between June 6 and 10, 2017 in the Knysna and Plettenberg Bay region.

More than 10 000 people were evacuated and Knysna and Plettenberg Bay were declared a disaster zone.

Howard urged communities to be more vigilant about fire and to have their local fire authority's contact numbers at hand.

Since December 1, WoF helped suppress 46 fires in the province, compared with 13 fires in December 2016.