WATCH: Wildfire Devastates University of Cape Town Library

UCT fire (Rodger Bosch / AFP / Getty)
Rodger Bosch / AFP / Getty

A wildfire that began on the slopes of Table Mountain reached the mountainside campus of the University of Cape Town on Sunday, damaging several buildings on campus, including a library that housed rare and irreplaceable African books.

The blaze began as a “vagrant” fire, according to local authorities, started by homeless people. However, high winds, hot weather, and dry foliage combined to carry the fire toward campus, where several residences were evacuated.

The fire also destroyed the Rhodes Memorial and a popular restaurant nearby that offered panoramic views of the city.

Videos of the fire spread across social media, along with laments about the potential loss of local knowledge and history:

The University of Cape Town is one of Africa’s premier research universities. It sits on land once owned by Cecil John Rhodes and has been the training ground for many of South Africa’s leaders in a wide variety of disciplines, from medicine to politics.

In 1966, Robert F. Kennedy delivered an historic address from the university, declaring: “At the heart of that western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, all groups, and states, exist for that person’s benefit. Therefore the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any western society.”

The auditorium where he delivered his speech, Jameson Hall, is among the buildings reportedly damaged by the fire.

Update: Local officials confirmed Sunday that they had contained the fire, and that firefighters were working to keep the fire from spreading within the library. A full assessment of the damage had not yet been completed.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new novel, Joubert Park, tells the story of a Jewish family in South Africa at the dawn of the apartheid era. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, recounts the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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