Nerve-racking video reveals trail runner becoming trapped by fire on Table Mountain

Stock image of fire on Table Mountain
(Image credit: Getty Images)

At the end of last month ultra runner and filmmaker James Norbury became trapped by fire while trail running on Table Mountain outside Cape Town in South Africa. The news of his mountain rescue was reported on various media outlets, but now Norbury has posted footage of the incident which brings the horrifying events to life in way those initial reports could barely hint at. 

When you hear Norbury gasp, “This fire is chasing me!” on the soundtrack you are left in no doubt that he’s not over-egging things for the sake of making his clip look more dramatic – you can tell that he’s genuinely beginning to fear for his life.

The video also also clears up questions on many people’s minds when they first read about the incident – how do you get trapped by fire on a mountain? How can you not notice? How can it surround you? The speed with which things happen is terrifying.

Norbury asks in the accompanying text “I would love your thoughts – good or bad – so that myself and perhaps others reading this can learn from the mistakes I made on Sunday.” 

He blames his plight on not checking mountain forecasts and concentrating so single-mindedly on breaking his speed record for the run that he wasn’t aware of his surroundings: “The lesson for me is to always maintain situational awareness even when in the ‘zone’.”

Norbury narrowly escaped danger on Sunday, April 28 when he set out about 8am local time to run the 14km Box to Box Challenge from Platteklip to Constantia. Along the way, he ran into a fire that had broken out above Kirstenbosch. Norbury suddenly smelled smoke but he couldn't get off the mountain as the only three trails of descent were blocked by the fire, leaving him stranded among the flames for about four and a half hours.

Instead of heading down, he headed up and found a rocky peak at the top of the mountain that had already been burnt. There he was able to get hold of the Fire and Rescue Services who came to his rescue after some heavy rain helped diffuse some of the flames. 

“Massive thank you to the heroes of the day @wsarwesterncape @nccenvironmentalservices,” says Norbury. “And to @blackboxcoffee_ct and @arthur_crawshay for helping co-ordinate things from the ground and the emotional support for the 4 hours I was stuck.”