My World on Fire


An eerie apricot glow hung over Fish Hoek this morning as the sun tried to penetrate thick smoke layers after three days of raging fires that gutted vast tracts of the southern Peninsula.  Fuelled further on Sunday by howling winds that dispersed hot ash across the surrounding mountainside, firefighting teams and volunteers had to work around the clock to try and contain several fires scattered across Noordhoek, Muizenberg, Boyes Drive and surrounds.

The devastation looks like something from an apocalyptic movie.  Large parts of Silvermine Nature Reserve have been reduced to a smouldering wasteland on both sides of Ou Kaapseweg, where entire ecosystems of fynbos and the small animals that habitat this endemic flora have been decimated.  Very little would have survived the blaze as it greedily devoured the largely dry reserve, urged on by the gusts of wind.

Yesterday evening as fire still raged along Chapman’s Peak, firefighting crews worked to contain the blaze.

36-IMG_7234Here a firefighting helicopter stops to collect water from the Clovelly wetlands to douse a blaze near Peer’s Cave.

26-IMG_7199 07-IMG_7167 05-IMG_7123 03-IMG_7100Ou Kaapseweg was finally opened to traffic yesterday as dense smog enveloped the Noordhoek valley.

06-IMG_7166It’s a really sad day for this beautiful part of the planet.  Grateful thanks to all those who worked round the clock to prevent further devastation.

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26 thoughts on “My World on Fire

  1. The vegetation (Fynbos) is prone to fire. Also this vegetation need a fire in order to reproduce. That houses have been build (even wooden ones and ones with a tatched roof) in this area says a lot about about the planning and building regulations (or the lack of it) of the local/regional council. That on its own is already saddening. But at the moment I feel with people who have lost their house and/or had to evacuate. And I admire the firefighters working around the clock in the efforts to contain this fire and are risking their lives.

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    • I hear you on the fynbos regeneration Herman. And yes, we as humans invade nature more and more. I just worry about all the tortoises, snakes, genets, meerkats, small buck, hares etc etc etc that were trapped in the inferno as it raged rampant across the Peninsula. While Silvermine reserve and the rest of Table Mountain National Park will recover in terms of vegetation after a couple of good downpours (and assuming there isn’t too much soil erosion as a result of the severity of the fires), most of the creatures swept up in the blaze are gone forever and they won’t regenerate. Now that gets me.

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      • Yes, also true. I understand from News 24 that 3000 ha has been destroyed. A few years ago about 25000 hectares precious mountain fynbos in our area was destroyed (didn’t get that much media attention although also houses were affected) and it is since then recovering nicely. There are still snakes and turtoises and the same amount of baboon troups. As for the peninsula fires I understand that many animals have been trapped, many have been saved and in Muizenberg the first people have been complaining about the invasion of all kinds of wild life in urban areas …. A fire is always devastating but nature heals. Just give it some time. 😉

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      • *Sigh* You always get one or two like that don’t you? I’m sure many animals did get away but in some instances the way the flames were devouring everything around them there was no way anything escaped. 11 years ago Silvermine was also destroyed and it recovered beautifully pretty quickly. The charred remains of tortoises though were a grim reminder that at the end of the day, it’s survival of the fastest. I saw a photograph on Facebook today of a large tortoise charred beyond recognition and that was like a fist to my gut. Horribly sad.

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    • I think you’re right – this is the third lot and by far the worst. Driving over Ou Kaapseweg yesterday after they opened it up to traffic was gut-wrenching. All that natural beauty gone up in smoke. We’re all going to welcome the winter rains!

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  2. You got some spectacular photos here Karen. Fire is such a hazard in the southern hemisphere, though South Africa seems to get off much lighter than Australia which has devastating bush fires every year. As you rightly say the flora will regenerate and in fact be better than ever, but the small mammals and reptiles caught up are gone forever. Very sad.

    I saw a blaze like this when living in Marina da Gama – the whole of Muizenberg (the mountain) was in flame and we watched as brave firefighters created fire breaks to contain the flames and stop the fire from spreading down the mountain and into the suburbs.

    I sincerely hope that no-ones loses their life and that the fire(s) are extinguished quickly.

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    • Thanks Jude although the picture quality is awful what with the smoke and shooting in Raw which really isn’t my forte. Not sure about the other locations but the fire is still burning above Clovelly – I can see it from my bedroom window and that’s three days in. All it’s done is move along the ridge despite a valiant effort by the helicopters. By late this afternoon fire-fighters were battling 14 different fires across the Western Cape and it was the hottest place in the world – 42 degrees C, just to add to the mix. They said on KFM this afternoon that about 3000 hectares had been destroyed. And it’s the Cape Argus Cycle tour this weekend. I can’t see them keeping Chapman’s Peak in as part of the route given the extent of the damage there. So all in all a horrible start to March for this beautiful valley. Woza rainy season xxx

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      • Exhausting work for those people trying to battle the fires. I shall try and send you some rain, but at the moment all we have are strong winds and you certainly don’t need those!

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      • The dedication and sense of community has been unbelievable. Nope, I’ll not accept a breath of wind thank you. Now rain on the other hand would be really welcome. It would solve a lot of problems and hopefully not create too many others in the process – like mudslides and rockfalls.

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  3. I feel for you. Australia’s bushfire season has just ended, but we have similar scenes every year, in varying degrees of devastation, sometimes also taking homes. Living in the city, it doesn’t really affect me, but just seeing how it can destroy vast tracts of land is awful. Take care.

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  4. Karen, your pots are great, as usual. But your writing I enjoy even more. Wanted more words. The comments provide more context about fire in that area, but I would not know these details if I did not read them. And again, love your theme.

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