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South Africa Cape Winelands fire threatens vineyards

South African wineries in the Cape Winelands area around Stellenbosch have paid tribute to firefighters who battled through the night to try to prevent the fierce Simonsberg fire from destroying vineyards - as well as property.

[Image credit: Sullivan Photography]

Dozens of firefighters – many of them volunteers – tackled the Simonsberg fire in South Africa’s Cape Winelands through the night on Thursday 21 January.

Officials said the fire had been 80% contained by Friday, according to Eye Witness News.

Some vineyards have been damaged, according to local media outlet News24.

It quoted the area’s fire services chief, Danie Wilds as saying 2,600 hectares of agricultural land had been destroyed before Thursday night. There were no reports of injuries at that stage.

It was difficult, however, to get a full picture of the scale of damage.

Murray Barlow, of Rustenberg Wines, sent a brief note to Decanter.com to say that he and his team were fighting a blaze threatening their land on Thursday.

Other wineries tweeted messages of support to those near to the blaze.

Arthur de Lencquesaing, marketing manager for Glenelly, said, ‘There has been great support from everyone in the area. Let’s hope there will be some rain helping in the coming days and limited wind.’

There were also many messages of thanks to firefighters across social media, such as the one below from Simonsig Wines – which shows how close flames were to some vineyards.

Makeshift kitchens prepared meals for hungry fire crews, including lasagne at L’Avenir Wines (below). Others donated water and energy bars.

Fire is a risk in several parts of South Africa during the late summer season. Last year, wildfires near to Cape Town threatened to consume some of the country’s oldest vineyards.

Updated 25 January 2016 to include comments from Arthur de Lencquesaing.

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