Devil's Peak blaze skirts upper campus

30 March 2009

Though it skirted upper campus - thanks to the efforts of city fire fighters and helicopters - the recent Devil's Peak blaze has prompted the Properties & Services to look at further measures to reduce the fire load in the area.

City fire experts are conducting a forensic investigation into possible causes of the Devil's Peak blaze, the third such fire in the area in two months.

"We are assisting where we can," added executive director of Properties & Service, John Critien.

Critien said UCT has emergency and evacuation plans in place for such occasions.

"Some years ago we created the necessary fire breaks, removed much of the fire load from the area, and we continue to maintain the breaks," said Critien. "In addition, over the December 2008 vacation we felled over 60 trees that were in decline."

Following the recent blaze, Critien said two additional areas of work were being scoped and costed.

One area is the forest in the north-west corner above Ring Road, and the other is directly below that, above the dam.

"The forest [above upper campus] is too close to buildings and the gas tank in these two areas, so we need to cut these trees back," Critien said.

Advice was being taken from Dr Richard Hill of the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science.

There had been no reports of animals seeking sanctuary on the upper campus.

But Critien said he'd walked the mountain following the fire and had seen an unusual number of crows, an indication that smaller reptiles and creatures had perished.

He also noted that UCT pays special attention to communicating with staff and students in the event of threatening or actual emergencies.

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