'The fire has come into the valley' said my neighbor. This was the news i was dreading to hear as i knew that once it was over the valley that the fire was en-route to our farm.
the fires over the last few weeks were too far away to be considered a threat. We saw a helicopter and airplane fly overhead almost daily towards the plantations along the mountain side. I would drive up to our sundowner deck with binoculars to see what was going on. From a distance i could see the working on fire teams and trucks fighting the blazes in the pine forests. If only i knew that those exact fires would pose a threat to my own farm.
The winds had been particularly strong that day and for the days during the event of the fire. Within a few days the smoke was drawing closer and closer until the evening where the community sent out a distress that the fire was over the river and into the kruisrivier valley. i loaded up my home built fire fighter onto the bakkie and headed off down to my neighbours farms down in the valley. There i was met with with a team of neighbors and their laborers busy filling up their tanks on tractors, bakkies, trucks etc. preparing to fight the oncoming fire. The local fire truck was also on stand by at the very end of the valley where my neighbors had their thatch roofed house. They we particularly concerned as a thatch roof can catch alight in a matter of seconds. We prayed and we held thumbs that the fires wouldn't reach their home and it was a miracle that it didn't.
That evening was just the tip of the iceberg. The fire spread quickly with the wind and travelled into my neighbors plantations of wattle and pine and were totally obliterated by the fire. The working on fire teams worked day by day trying to contain the fire but the winds kept making it move faster and grow with the dry material and fynbos which could catch fire faster than a match striking a matchbox.
Then the fire spread through the night, jumped the road and boundary and entered our beloved farm on the wilderness side. I thought we could still beat this fire as the next morning the teams of fire fighters, firemen and aircraft raced onto our farm and headed up our mountains and used our sundowner deck as the perfect platform to direct the helicopter where to throw down his buckets of water. The fire manager was assure that today we beat this fire...but never underestimate mother nature. The helicopter and teams fought hard and ended to flames. We were sure this was it, its over. it was going to die down in our valley. however, mother nature gave us a shock of note, the winds picked up again from the wrong direction and any smoldering coals simply caught the dry vegetation alight and continued on its path of destruction. it even managed to spark a fire over the bottom of the valley where the vegetation was at its most dense and here it was green, dense, wet and moist. I was so sure this would make the perfect natural barrier to stop it coming up the hill towards the sundowner deck and down to the stables. How wrong was i to assume this. Next moment the helicopter had run out of time and fuel and left, the fire teams were on the other side of the valley and the fire restarted heading towards our farm! we jumped on the bakkie and began to fight the fire with the water sprayers and beaters but the fires were too hot and too fast for us. we had to evacuate from the mountain.
The fire truck was called in next to the stables. their mission was to save all infrastructure and buildings and to ensure the flames don't get to them. unfortunately, the worst thing imaginable happened. the fire reached the small hill where the deck was and within seconds, the deck was totally and utterly destroyed. I cried really hard that night. All that hard work i put into that deck. Financially it was a loss and emotionally. I constructed the deck entirely by myself, a solo build. We celebrated literally days before the fire on our deck inviting neighbors and guests having sundowners and snacks with the beautiful views of the mountains and wilderness. And the fire took it all away.
The fire that night once it had gone through my deck, continued its way up the next mountain above the stables and house and we were petrified that the fire was surely going to engulf our home. we were terrified. Thank goodness the fire teams were there to make sure this didn't happen and that mother nature was kind to us as the fire steered up and away from the house and stables continuing through the dry vegetation and fynbos. The next in line for destruction was our pine plantation and the tower on top of the hill. A few day earlier i visited the tower to see the damage and I'm pretty sure the telecoms company won't be too happy to see the state of their town which we gave permission to setup on our farm for our neighbors to have internet and cellphone reception. The tower is history.
that afternoon as it remained in the mountain, the fire teams fought hard to battle the blaze as it was again heading down the valley towards more homes. Then, as if God himself was watching the whole event unfold, turned on the taps and delivered us a drenching rain shower! the fire teams ululated and sang and joys of victory were shouted! the fire was finally out! The fire teams packed up and went home and the next morning in the wet, we were left with the dust and the ashes of the runaway bush fire. Our farm is a real survivor and so are we. We had just survived a cape storm, drought and now a bush fire. Whoever said being a farmer is easy, this life and work as a farmer is not for the faint hearted!