28-year-old arrested after devastating Fish Hoek fire

Man found in vicinity of fire to be charged with arson, say police

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Four houses were destroyed by a raging fire which swept across Fish Hoek, below Elsies Peak, on Sunday. Photos: Steve Kretzmann

  • A man is to be charged with arson after the raging fire which destroyed several homes in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, at the weekend.
  • Police said the 28-year-old had been found in the vicinity of the fire.
  • Two women had to be evacuated by firefighters after they collapsed.

Police have confirmed a 28-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a fire that destroyed four houses and severely damaged at least four more on Sunday in Fish Hoek.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Pojie said the man, who was found in the vicinity of the fire, had been arrested on a charge of arson and would appear in the magistrates court.

On Monday, resident Jordan Sarkis stood in the ruins of the one-bedroom home overlooking False Bay he and his wife had bought four months ago, while an insurance assessor took notes.

Sarkis’s home was the first house in the line of the fire that started at about midday, hours before the predicted rainfall.

Sarkis, 30, who runs a micro-finance family business, had bought the house above Main Road in December and renovated it before getting married in February. Having moved down from Johannesburg, he and his wife had just returned from honeymoon to live in the house three days before it was destroyed.

“It (the fire) moved so fast,” he said, “we just grabbed our stuff.”

Jordan Sarkis and his wife had just moved into their house.

While the walls of Sarkis’s house were still standing, another timber house in the fynbos between the Main Road and Echo Road higher up the slope was completely destroyed. Only metal debris, charred clothing and books indicated a home had stood there. The owner, who said they had no insurance, didn’t want to be named or interviewed.

Brick and concrete houses further up the mountain off Echo Road were substantially damaged. Dave Beneke, who lost the bottom of three floors, said he was hosing down his roof as the fire advanced, but when his shirt started melting he was forced back inside. Most residents had evacuated, but he said the fire brigade had arrived when the bottom floor started burning and he knew he would be okay.

Mopping up, he praised the firefighters and said despite the approximately R1-million damage to his property, he was lucky: “I’m still alive.”

This stone and thatch cottage was destroyed in Sunday’s fire.

Despite the constant rain throughout the night, on Monday morning smoke was still billowing from charred stumps in what had been gardens, monitored by firefighters.

Fire service spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to a fire “in Glencairn” near the main road “just after midday” on Sunday.

Carelse said more than 20 firefighting resources, including teams from Table Mountain National Park and Volunteer Wildfire Services, attended to the fire which was fanned by gale force winds.

He said staff had to evacuate two women from their home, “as they collapsed”.

One of the houses destroyed by a fire in Fish Hoek on Sunday.

Also in Fish Hoek, a concrete mast supporting overhead train lines was blown over, resulting in all trains on the Southern Line being cancelled on Monday.

Metrorail spokesperson Zinobulali Mihi said in a statement that repairs on the overhead transmission lines could not take place while the strong winds continued.

When GroundUp checked the downed transmission line pylon at 1pm, it appeared no effort had been made to move it off the tracks and no PRASA workers were in sight.

Mihi said PRASA equipment at Stellenbosch had also been damaged by the storm on Sunday.

A concrete pylon supporting overhead transmission lines was blown over near the Fish Hoek train station during gale force winds on Sunday.


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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

People should not be living on mountain slopes. They encroaching on the territory of animals. If they do want to live there they must be prepared for what can happen.

Dear Editor

I want to publicly commend our firefighters for their excellent work extinguishing the fires that took out the middle tier of Simonstown Road, destroying my neighbours' house and another down the road I think totally.

My "Heaven House" and the timber house right next to the burnt cabin were saved by seconds thanks to the immediate planning and response from the firefighters.

They attacked the fires from the thatched house side, the Simonstown side from left to right, and Echo Road and front Simonstown Road all at once.

Well done to them.

Dear Editor

On the morning of the fire in Fish Hoek I was running on the Main Road close to the Sunny Cove Bridge when I heard a loud bang and saw sparks flying. My first thought because of the incoming storm was a lightning strike. But I realised the sound was from a street light that sparked and shorted. It's not a far reach that something similar could have happened in Echo Road, which is close to where I noticed the sparks. The gale force winds could have spread these sparks especially as there are tall trees and other vegetation located on the road. A pole on the railway line, carrying electricity also blew over in Fish Hoek that day. Strange that a man was arrested for being in the vicinity of the fire with no mention of any evidence against him. Also that this seems to to be the only arrest so far in the countless fires this season.

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