Table Mountain Fire

These pictures are not of a bomb blast.

These pictures are not of the result of a political uprising or unrest.

These pictures are not of a volcanic eruption.



These pictures are the result of a single person throwing a cigarette butt out of his car window on Table Mountain, in the middle of summer, during a howling South-Easter.

This act of carelessness has caused one person to loose their life, countless animals on the mountain to die, damage to public and property, and over 700 hectares of fragile fynbos on the mountain to be destroyed. An estimated 40 to 50 percent of the world’s Silverleaf tree population has been destroyed.

500 people were involved in the fire-fighting operation, as well over 100 fire-trucks and three helicopters.

Why did this happen? Because one person was inconsiderate about his environment. Now, in all honesty, I doubt that he thought or realised what could (and in this case did) happen. If he had paused for about 1 second, he would have (hopefully) not thrown the butt out and destroyed our mountain.

The reason he did not take 1 second is because he is typical of the type of person who has no regard whatsoever for the environment. The reason he did not think about his actions is that he is so used to littering, and leaving a trail of mess behind him, that it probably never occurred to him what could happen.

This is not the first time this happened. We have major fires on Table Mountain and the surrounding mountains on a regular basis – the majority of which are started by cigarettes or deliberately (how somebody can deliberately start a fire – I don’t know). However, to the best of my knowledge this is the first time that somebody has been caught and formally charged for starting a fire.

I personally have mixed feelings about this:

  • Part of me thinks that he should be thrown into jail and made an example of. People who litter need to know that their actions can have serious consequences.
  • The other part of me realises that in general a cigarette butt is just a small piece of litter that is unsightly but not particularity harmful. So, you can’t really prosecute him too seriously. After all – he did not mean to burn down the mountain.

You be the judge – what do you think should happen?

If you learn one thing by what happened, let it be that you need to be aware of the consequences your actions can have.


  • 700 hectares is equivalent to an area 1 km wide, and 7km long.
  • In 2004, over 30000 hectares where destroyed by fire in the Western Cape. This is an area 1km wine, and 300km long!
  • While the tourist in question has been charged, and is currently out on bail, the legal process is taking place and he has not yet been convicted.
  • I don’t have the source for the pictures – if any of them are yours I will gladly credit you or remove them.
  • A selection of pictures that I took of the 2005 fires above Muizenberg from my house and road is here.


3 Responses to Table Mountain Fire

  • Wow – THAT is very sad. I believe there should be a law against throwing a lit or even unlit cigarett out anywhere – unless it is properly placed in a can for ashes. No matter how small it is still litter. What does it say about the environment when people are allowed to do this – and the fact that they would do it.

    Lets start a campaign against throwing cigaretts out. It is very annoying when I am driving and someone tosses his/her cigarett out….SIGH

    OK you can tell that I am passionate about this subject.

    OH and don;t get me started about faculty, staff and parents who smoke on school grounds.

  • Well, the person that did it was prosecuted for manslaughter since somebody died in the fire. I agree with you 100%.

    But then our smoking laws are some of the most strict in the world :-)

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