A brush fire, raging out of control in a Cape Province mountain range, claimed the lives of nine firefighters when flames, fanned by high winds, engulfed them on January 22.
JANUARY 22 (SABC):
GV Fire ranges up side of hillside
GVs NIGHT SCENES Bushes and trees blaze (4 shots)
GV ZOOM INTO SV Helicopter lowers dead bodies and injured to helpers on ground; bodies stretchered away into waiting ambulances (5 shots)
CU Firefighter Sam Lots speaks (SOT)
CU Eye-witness speaks (SOT)
JANUARY 23 (RUBYTHON):
GV, SV & CU Fire blazes on dry trees and scrub (crackling noise) (4 shots)
SV Firefighters use plastic mats on handles in attempt to douse flames
TRANSCRIPT OF SEQ. 4:
SAME LOTS (FIREFIGHTER): "The wind was blowing in a southeasterly direction all the time, and everything was quite under control. And the suddenly, the wind changed, you know, right up towards the mountain, and the whole place was engulfed in flames. And there was virtually nothing we could not do about it, because the fire just came around everybody."
QUESTION: How did you manage to get out?"
SAM LOT: "Well, like I said, I was with a centre group, so I wasn't involved in the battle. There was a couple of guys that managed to escape, but unfortunately there was some unlucky one."
TRANSCRIPT OF SEQ. 5
"These ten men were beating the fire when there was a sudden change in wind going up the valley. They tried to run up to the crest on which we were standing, and had made it most of the way when they were overwhelmed by flames. One man did manage to get over the top, and he survived; another we found about twenty metres from the top of the ridge. Had he made it, I think he would have survived."
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: A brush fire, raging out of control in a Cape Province mountain range, claimed the lives of nine firefighters when flames, fanned by high winds, engulfed them on January 22. The men, part of a team battling against a ferocious blaze near the Fransch Hoek Pass, were trapped on a mountain ledge, but a helicopter managed to fight through dense smoke and unpredictable winds to rescue at least 17 others. A fleet of ambulances waited in a nearby clearing to rush the injured to hospital after they were winced to safety off an adjacent mountain top by the hovering helicopter. The nine dead -- eight Black and one White -- were Forestry Department employees, surrounded by flames which at times reached an estimated 10 metres (30 feet) in height. The fire, so intense that it jumped across the main Fransch Hoek access road, has already blackened some 37 square kilometres (25 square miles) of valuable farm and wood land. An official spokesman said that the fire is believed to have started on January 21, ignited by wind-blown embers from another forest fire at a farm near the town of Villiersdorp. Fire officers indicated that they were unable to predict when the blaze would be brought under control.