An “out of control” fire has broken out in Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park on Sunday, according to South African officials, prompting the evacuation of hikers from the city’s most famous landmark.
More than 120 firefighters are battling the massive blaze, and four helicopters have been deployed to help with the efforts, according to a media release shared by a Twitter account associated with the park.
“The fire created its own wind that further increased the rate of spread. The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread,” the park added.
The statement said the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant had burnt down and “the fire has also spread to the veld above the University of Cape Town upper campus.”
One woman in the park said she was “trying to outrun the fire” in a video posted on Twitter, which showed a plume of smoke in the background. In a later tweet, Lisette Lombard said she was safe but her car had been “destroyed.”
“Never have I experienced a fire that spread so unpredictably fast. I have so much respect for our firefighters,” she added.
According to a statement from South Africa’s National Parks, a “vacated vagrant fire” may have been responsible for the blaze.
“After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire. Due to the extreme Fire Danger Index for today, which is Red with temperatures of 36 degrees noted and an extremely low relative humidity of under 10%, the fire spread rapidly in the direction of Rhodes Memorial,” the statement read.
Fanned by wind, the fire spread from the vicinity of Philip Kgosana Drive, which borders table Mountain National Park, to the Rhodes Memorial continuing further towards University of Cape Town buildings, Jermaine Carelse, a spokesperson for Cape Town Fire and Rescue said.
Authorities were first notified around 8:45 a.m. local (2.45 a.m. ET), he said.
Their battle against the flames could last for days, according to a media release shared by a Twitter account associated with the park.
“This is not an easy fire which will probably see firefighters fighting the blaze for at least for (sic) three days,” the release read.