Nico Heyns Vermaaklikheid

Kishugu / Twitter

Vermaaklikheid fire: Tributes pour in for “hero” pilot killed fighting blaze

Nico Heyns, who died in a helicopter crash fighting the Vermaaklikheid fires, has been lauded as a hero by colleagues, family and friends.

Nico Heyns Vermaaklikheid

Kishugu / Twitter

Veteran helicopter pilot and Working on Fire member Nico Heyns tragically lost his life on Tuesday, tackling a blaze that has engulfed Vermaaklikheid on the Garden Route.

Heyns’ helicopter crashed when it encountered difficulties in the Hessequa municipal boundary. So far, he is the only fatality claimed by the roaring inferno. The Bitou Fire Association have shared their condolences, labelling their favoured pilot as a “life-saver”:

“There are few wildfire firefighters who have not had a bucket dumped on them by Nico, some of those buckets were life-saving. He spent a lot of critical time in our area and in some of our homes.”

“Our prayers are with his family, colleagues and friends. May you have some peace in the knowledge that his life impacted many many people.”

About Nico Heyns

Hundreds of comments have been shared on Facebook, paying tribute to Heyns and his fearless work in containing some of the most infamous fires to hit this region. He was also active during the Knysna Fires of 2017, which claimed seven lives.

The Minister of Local Governance, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, passed on the Western Cape government’s sentiments, saying that their “thoughts are with the family, friends and firefighting community at this time.”

Vermaaklikheid latest news and updates

An army helicopter, two water bombers and 90 Working on Fire crew members will attend the Vermaaklikheid scene on Tuesday, as local authorities race to eliminate the fire before it reaches nearby residential areas.

Photo via Southern Cape Fire Protection Association Facebook

Resources from the Garden Route District Municipality, Hessequa Municipality, George Municipality and SCFPA are also currently deployed in the area in an attempt to halt the fire’s swift burn in various directions.