It started on Thursday, as fires do, with a puff of smoke on the other side of the mountain. We were in Johannesburg on business and everyone assured us that it was quite far away and we were safe. By late Thursday it was on our neighbours’ farm, still high above us. Peter was on a plane home and I was getting our farm workers back onto the farm to help.
On Friday at 4am Peter phoned to say they had lost it on the south side of our farm. I was already wide awake; I got up and packed to come straight home.
By late Friday I was standing at the gate with a friend and neighbour. I’d been running food, drinks, diesel and other supplies but couldn’t get onto the farm because of a raging fire at the gate. Our neighbour John, an experienced farmer and firefighter had come up to give us water and sustenance. He said “The first fire was to test us. The second fire was serious. But this, this fire is the real thing.” Meanwhile complete strangers were stopping me on the dirt road to tell me they “knew” our house had burned down. The fire raged on.
It is Saturday evening now. We’ve been fighting flare ups all day. The nights can be frightening. Last night we had “resources” to help – because there were so many hotspots. Tonight we will be on our own. I am becoming more competent at firefighting. If it flares tonight I won’t evacuate. I will make sure the dogs are safe and go and fight it. The whole mountain has burned and now the fire seeks the last lines of green, the few remaining trees and plantations that we’ve saved. Another neighbour says “the fire sees something it wants to eat, dry grass, a tree, a thatched roof; then it goes and gets it, even if it has to jump far.”
Not a single fynbos flower left and barely a plant anywhere on this entire mountain that hasn’t been damaged by the fire. The forest is dead and the land is a moonscape. It will revive of course. That is what the fynbos does. But so many old friends gone. All my old friends that have appeared on these blog posts; all are gone. Now they must regenerate. They say the fynbos burns every 15 – 20 years. It has been 17 since this farm burned. I cannot bring myself to post the really terrible photos of the scorched earth.
I am told the spring flowers will be incredible. I hope so and I hope to share that joy on these pages. It will take a while.
All we have left are the olives, which miraculously survive and some buchu lands that our farm workers fought bravely to save because they have not yet been harvested.
The hungry fire smouldering darkly.
And our house.
Terrible. I am so sorry that you have lost so much. I’ve followed your blog and so much enjoyed the photos. Sure, the flowers after a fire do come up pretty quickly , and the later ones are very beautiful – but it must rain first.
Thank you so much. Has been tough but we are lucky to have saved so much as well.
I am so sorry to hear about your loss.
I am so sorry. Nothing else to say. No words will help you. I hope love and friendship can help you. xxxx
But we have our house, our dogs and each other and the flowers will grow back. We’ll get through. Thank you for your lovely words.
Stay safe and best wishes for a peaceful night …
Your beautiful world will heal and grow back 🌱
I am so sorry to read this. Sending love and hugs.
We are thinking of you regards Debbie
Dear Sarah , Dear Peter, your account about the fire and the photos are sadly very impressive … we understand that you’ve been through a lot of stress about your lovely house -and even your own safety .. Although I understand that fires are part of Fynbos life and that it will recover naturally ,it must be a heart breaker to see the landscape around you. Sorry ,sorry , with love, Romain Jean-François
passing strangers tellng you your house had burnt down?! Monstrous.
We’ve lived thru fires in Camps Bay and Porterville, and Fish Hoek. But never anything like your experience.
I hope that you will share your first hand experience as the flowers do return. Fire asparagus after 2 weeks. Fire lilies. Sprouting restios. Wild orchids.
(Sadly following the Bainskloof fire near Wellington. Poor firefighters, this has been terrible)
I’ve only just caught up with my blog reading and I was so sad to hear about your devastating experiences. I hope we all get rain soon and that your home is still intact.