Two people have died and 600 informal homes have been destroyed in South Africa's winelands after a fire razed a shantytown, according to a fire services official.

The blaze spread rapidly across a large area in Kayamandi in the wine-producing town of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, in the early hours of Friday.

"We had two fatalities," Leon Morta, Stellenbosch fire chief, said.

Six hundred shacks were destroyed and 2,500 people left homeless.

"We suspect that it was a candle that overturned but obviously there will be a proper investigation that will determine the cause of the fire," Morta said.

Additional teams were brought in from surrounding municipalities with 12 fire engines and 50 fire fighters on the scene.

Access was hampered due to the congested lay-out of the area and residents having put their salvaged furniture in the street.

The fire was extinguished at 6am (0400 GMT) but firefighters were still working in the area to ensure it was safe.

Shack fires are common in the Cape Town area, spreading quickly through the tightly packed shack areas and often fanned by strong winds.

On New Year's Day, a major blaze left more than 3,000 people homeless in a Cape Town shack area.

Source: Agencies