Wednesday, March 16, 2016

THE TAIL END OF THE FIRE

Towards the end of February a fire started in the Swartberg Mountains.  It was believed to have been started by lightening.  The fire raged on for twelve days.  From my window at night, when the fire was burning on the higher peaks visible from town, it looked like a volcano with lines of flame going up the mountain. Other nights we could just see a massive glow and billowing clouds of smoke. The fire raged through the mountains before it decided to come down into the Prince Albert Valley or Die Gang as it is also known, where on more than one night, farmers families had to evacuate their homes as the flames burned along garden fences and also burnt the edges of olive groves and fruit orchards on Kredouw Olive Estate.  Guests in the Kredouw guest houses also had to evacuate.  Other brave farmers from the area and the Swartberg Nature Reserve Rangers went out to help fight the fire.  These poor men went for nights on end without sleep. The Prince Albert fire truck, which is literally a bakkie with a water container on the back, and even the town sewerage truck went out with water, but were not effective enough against a fire that size.  Then help arrived from Oudtshoorn and finally helicopters were called in to take action.  Once the fire had moved back into the Swartberg Nature Reserve, the Nature Conservation guys took over again.  The winds over this period were outrageously strong which did not help matters.  Thousands and thousands of hectares were burnt. About three quarters of the way through the fire the count was already over 6000 hectares.  I haven't been able to find out what the final figure was.  Although this is nature and the proteas need fire to germinate their seeds, my heart breaks for the little creatures like tortoises that cannot get away.

These photos were taken in the Prince Albert Valley and at the tail end of the fire on the top of Kredouw Pass one morning on my way to Oudtshoorn.


Smoke makes for pretty pictures.






Kredouw Pass up ahead where the smoke is thicker.




I couldn't get this shot without the lines without having to climb over a farm fence.




The start of the climb up the Kredow Pass.  Because the veld is so dry, the burnt areas don't jump out at you.  The hills that you can see here are burnt and so were the trees on the edges of this olive grove, both on the road and the far side, and right up to the back of the guesthouses that you can just see on the left of the grove.


Burnt veld beyond the olive grove and you can see the burnt trees.




A burnt hill opposite Kredouw Olive Estate, and you can see where the fire jumped the road into their fruit trees and another olive grove.




The beautiful main house of Kredouw, nestled at the foot of the hills.


Another view over the Kredouw Olive Estate dam towards the house.


Smoke hanging in a valley.


Lines of small flames still burning.  They picked up as the day went on and the wind got stronger.






That night the fire moved back into the Swartberg Nature Reserve and once again we could see the glow from town.  This was taken out one of my windows at home.

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