The fire last night did not seem at midday what it would turn out to be.

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Sure there was smoke, something was amiss, but the most that one could see is what the midday image below suggested, nothing!

Only the White Dragon, like the one from A Never Ending Story …

Even in the late afternoon when I drove along Boyes Drive to take some images for the article on the ‘tiniest vineyard’ in South Africa, and the closest to the sea, the only evidence of something potentially serious were the two fire trucks in the dip of Boyes Drive as you came past Peck’s Valley.

The fire fighters were donning scarves across their faces but otherwise they seemed fairly relaxed.

That crazy wind continued though and as the sun set it was a Fire Dragon that now came alive, belching its first breaths of flame:

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By about nine that evening this was no small fire anymore.

The prevailing South Easter pushed the flames northwest down into a valley north of us.

At the bottom of that valley an entire housing complex.

The Moon was in the sky, still in the eastern segment of its arc, Venus not too far off from it.

Windswept the sky certainly was, but still beautiful.

However, there in the northwest the black mountain had fire on its rim, burning the night, long orange tongues shooting up into the sky.

The wind has been crazy, and has stayed crazy, blowing for days on end …

Cars were now lining themselves up at the bottom of Boyes Drive, and in Lakeside. People standing about wondering …

The irony is that the scene has this deadly beauty, apocalyptic, inasmuch as say shark cage diving brings you close to deadly beauty, or when one is observing a deadly snake.

The fire was mesmerizing, and within us the sense of witnessing a destructive, unpredictable force that was already creating a nightmare for the residents of the homes in its path.

And we had no idea what was going on in the Noordhoek, Chapman’s Peak and Hout Bay areas.

We left the scene with a sense of unease.

So we decided to catnap, even though we should be out of the way of the fire.

At about one in the morning Julian arrives and drives me up to the circle at Stone Hurst Estate.

There are clearly flames at the mountainside fence with the estate … you feel you want to be helpful in some way but a worried woman tells us to move on, we are only in the way.

She is annoyed at us … when I ask if any homes have caught fire she is sharp with me – the stress and anxiety is getting to her.

So we come back home and I keep checking every fifteen minutes or so.

Julian disappears with the one car when I fall asleep, and when I wake up I wonder if he has gone off to try to help – that worries me.

So I jump into the other car and go looking – the rest of the house is sleeping, and I have the pets all counted for and closed inside one of the rooms; relieved, I see he has parked the car where he is staying, a block away.

The fire has reached dangerously close to some houses in Lakeside, a kilometre or so from us, just across from Boyes Drive.

A huge fire hose is already in place.

On our side the cliffs and the prevailing direction of the wind have kept the fire high up and away.

What is surreal is that most of the neighbours slept, and many were still asleep …

Day 2

Today the neighbours though woke up to the reality of last night … the wind slowly dies during the day and it is late afternoon.

We have had a few concerned chats in the street during the day.

The flames are slowly descending down the ravine above us … and now there they come, the two yellow choppers, their water buckets flying below and behind them.

We have a vlei (lake) hence the name Lakeside … and they are dipping in the vlei and attacking the edge of fire.

The white belly one, ZULCY, is doing the precision work, approaching with purpose, hovering, taking the line then unleashing the water.

The partner chopper, its code indistinct, smothers in a subsequent pass.

We watch, eyes to the sky, as the choppers come over again and again … it is pin point and once we get the hang of what they are doing we start clapping, and waving, they can see us as they come overhead to grab more water.

ZULCY has one final flame, up against the cliffs, he approaches, steadies and with a bow does his final drop, a whiplash action to get the bucket close to the cliff … we cheer and we wave and give him thumbs up … heroes all of them …

Day 3

The fire in our ravine smoldered through the night.

At 2 and 3 in the morning we are chatting with our next door neighbour.

There is this flame in a disused quarry up there that keeps on springing up, dies down, springs up … weird.

At about 11h00 this morning the flame finally escapes from the quarry and the fire in the ravine resumes.

ZTHBV, the partner to ZULCY of yesterday is now back in action with a black helicopter. It takes time off from the bigger front south to do a couple of sorties over yesterday’s fire edge … just enough to mitigate.

But mostly the two are focusing south of us … through the gaps in the houses we can see the flames in the lower reaches of the mountain.

There are at least a dozen houses just this side of Boyes Drive … they will be attacking that front again and again …

ZTHBV comes back to do our flame … poises … releases … the big flame dies … I hope he can see my thumbs up.

The Black Bird continues with the bigger problem to the left …

I look out again and this time it is the Black Bird back into our ravine … he picks up the left edge and releases … bull’s eye … but not enough to each the flame in the middle …

Black Bird comes back and goes for the middle flame … it gets dumped on … one lick of flame still there … this is a game of patience and persistence.

Copyright © 2015 G. Rigotti

 

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