Orange flames lit up the windows of the library that houses considerable archives and book collections while firefighters sprayed jets of water to douse the blaze. At least two floors of Jagger Library burned, according to local news reports.
Other campus buildings also caught fire, and a historic windmill nearby burned.
Just off-campus on the slopes of Table Mountain, wind spread the flames across dry brush, and part of the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant caught fire, Cape Town media reported.
More than 100 firefighters and emergency personnel were deployed to the university campus and to Table Mountain National Park. Four helicopters were being used to drop water on threatened areas, officials said.
One firefighter was injured and being treated at a hospital, according to the Cape Town fire and rescue department.
Residents have been cautioned to be on alert, Charlotte Powell, spokeswoman for the city’s disaster risk management center, said in a statement.
“At this stage, there’s no cause to evacuate, but we ask that residents adhere to the following: close all windows to prevent draft and reduce heat, damp down your garden using a hose or irrigation system,” Powell said.
By Andrew Meldrum