Cape Town fires 2015 – the worst since 2000, we won’t forget them in a hurry.
The Western Cape mountains are covered with a very unique type of vegetation called ‘fynbos‘. One of its special characteristics is that some of it needs fire to regenerate. Now that man has encroached on nature, we prefer to plan those fires under controlled conditions at the appropriate time of the year, such as in less windy months. Unfortunately, sometimes nature, or man’s carelessness, causes fires that rage out of control for several days.
That’s what happened last week. The cause is not yet known but a fire started on the slopes of the mountains above Muizenberg. It soon spread to Silvermine, along the Constantiaberg, jumped over the mountains into Hout Bay and Noordhoek. It raged for a week, destroying thousands of hectares of vegetation, many small animals, several homes and threatening some of our most historic Constantia wine estates. On the final day it took the life one of the firefighting heroes, Bees Marais, a helicopter pilot of many years, when his chopper crashed in Cape Point.
As I type this, there are still firefighters monitoring the mountains in case of flare-ups.
During all this time, we still had to conduct tours of the peninsula. We managed to do everything we wanted after some changes and improvisation, but it’s been a torrid week of ash, fear, loss, and tragedy. It also proved that this is a city that comes together when needed. Thousands of Capetonians came to help the firefighters (many of whom are volunteers) with food, drink and accommodation; millions of rands were pledged, the Cape Cycle Tour was shortened due to areas being out of bounds but the theme was ‘firefighters’ with most cyclists and spectators wearing red in solidarity, and in many other small but meaningful ways people opened their hearts and their homes to help where they could.
The fires are over now, in Cape Town anyway – some are still burning in outlying regions – and, as always, the vegetation will grow back more beautiful than ever as a result of nature’s devastation, but in the meantime we have a moonscape and people are picking up the pieces of their lives and homes.
Our friends ‘What’s The Point’ were in the thick of it – helping and feeding the firefighters, keeping us posted via Facebook and Twitter, helping with evacuations and taking marvellous photos, some of which we share with you.
It was rumoured that the Tokai Manor House had burned down when the mountain and pine plantation just above were burning, but it is still standing. Read about its quirky history and ghost here.