Table Mountain Wildfire in South Africa Spreads to University of Cape Town

A wildfire raging on the slopes of Table Mountain in South Africa has spread to the University of Cape Town (UCT), damaging historic buildings and forcing students to evacuate on April 18.

A fire has burned the historic Jagger campus library of UCT, which contained archives and valuable book collections as firefighters work to extinguish the blaze.

UCT Library Executive Director Ujala Satgoor said that the fire “gutted” the library reading room, but triggered the fire detection system, which prevented the fire to spread further to other parts of the library.

“All UCT students have been evacuated from campus by emergency services and support staff,” the university said in a statement, adding that academic activities are suspended on April 19 to 20.

UCT also placed the campus under lockdown and arranged food and emergency accommodation for the 4,000 student evacuees.

“We will assess the situation and provide further updates before midday” on April 20, the university said.

Other campus buildings also caught fire, as well as the nearby historic Mostert’s Mill, the oldest working windmill in the country.

According to a statement from the South African National Parks (SANParks), which runs the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), it is believed that a homeless person accidentally started the fire.

“After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire,” SANParks stated.

SANParks also said that the fire spread quickly due to the old pine trees on the mountain and the wind that the fire created on its own.

According to TMNP Fire Manager Philip Prins, 129 firefighters have been deployed to extinguish the flame, including four helicopters water-bombing the blaze.

One firefighter was hospitalized for sustaining burn wounds, officials said.

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