Fireworks are set to be the focus of heated debate by authorities this week as calls for an outright ban mounted after Guy Fawkes celebrations caused havoc around Cape Town and were blamed for possibly sparking a blaze in Table View.
An online petition attracted more than 100 signatures shortly after being created on Friday, and was just one of several calling for a fireworks ban.
The Table View blaze, one of two fires that broke out on Thursday and continued burning into Friday, marked a premature start to Cape Town’s fire season.
Firefighting resources were stretched, with helicopters, due to go into action only in December used to drop water in the flames.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith joined the call yesterday for a fireworks ban.
“Not surprisingly, we have been inundated with complaints about why fireworks are allowed in the first place.
The struggle continues
“The carnage and misery they cause every year is too much. I have asked the city to discuss the matter.” The City of Cape Town does not have the legal power to ban the import, sale and production of fireworks, but the government does.
The city or provincial authorities may, therefore, approach the government to get firework legislation tightened.
On Friday Smith said he had placed the topic of fireworks on the agenda of a meeting set for Tuesday at which he would ask Mayor Patricia de Lille to decide on ways to tackle the issue.
To mark Guy Fawkes on Thursday people were allowed to discharge fireworks at 12 designated sites around the city. These areas drew thousands of people, resulting in major traffic congestion.
Ten children and six adults suffered injuries and the Metro police received 309 fireworks-related complaints.
Some fireworks were also ignited in non-designated areas.
On Friday morning photographs circulated online of beaches still littered with the remnants of crackers, and mayoral committee member for utility services Ernest Sonnenberg said clean-up crews had been kept busy. “There was more than one area to clean due to the public not adhering to the allocated authorised areas,” he said.
On Friday Trade and Industry Department spokesperson Sidwell Medupe said if the provincial government approached it and asked for the use and sale of fireworks to be further restricted, it would look into the issue.
But he said it was unlikely the importation of fireworks could be banned.
“You can only ban something that is illegal. I don’t think banning fireworks can hold up.”
Medupe said a complete ban on the import of fireworks would probably end in the department facing legal action.
He said municipalities had by-laws to deal with where and when fireworks could be discharged.
If they identified problems, they could approach the provincial government, which could in turn approach the government.
Police also had a say when it came to fireworks legislation.
But Musa Zondi, spokesperson for Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, said he understood this was an operational matter.
Acting provincial police commissioner Thembesile Patekile’s office said residents with complaints about fireworks should get in touch with the City of Cape Town.
On Friday Table View residents Pat Smith and Sheree Rayfield said they were starting a petition to try to ban fireworks.
They spoke as they walked alongside charred vegetation in the Rietvlei section of the Table Bay Nature Reserve, looking for injured animals after the night fire that broke out late on Thursday and spread rapidly.
Firefighters worked throughout the night to prevent the flames reaching buildings and the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) centre.
The fire came close to the centre and dozens of birds had to be evacuated.
Initial suggestions were that a Chinese lantern from a fireworks display had sparked the blaze. But the wind had been blowing seawards, away from the nature reserve.
The cause of the fire was still being investigated, according to authorities.
Noordhoek fire extinguished
On Thursday, hours before the Table View fire broke out, another blaze started near Lake Michelle in Noordhoek and also burned into the evening.
Firefighters were stationed in the area overnight, and remained there on Friday in case of flare-ups. Some firefighters who battled the Noordhoek blaze were sent on to Table View.
City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services spokeswoman Liesl Moodie said by yesterday afternoon the Noordhoek fire had been extinguished.
She said an extensive section of vegetation had burnt in Table View.
Firefighting helicopters, from Working on Fire and Table Mountain National Park, had been unavailable as these were being prepared and serviced for the fire season.
“All aerial support will be operational from December 1,” she said.
By Caryn Dolley. Source: IOL News