Alchemy of fire

On Monday afternoon, a pall of smoke rose from Silverboom Kloof Nature Reserve close by, and I quickly headed to this precious piece of land, where just yesterday morning I’d walked with Phoebe Basset, and stopped to smell exquisite flowers in bloom, and touched the soft ferns, which as always remind me of the Garden Route where I grew up, and our hikes in the Outeniquas.

The flames were still small, on the lower side of the kloof, and members of the neighbourhood watch used branches to try to extinguish the flames, which grew rapidly in their intensity, forcing us to retreat.

It jumped the pathway, and the indigenous trees and fynbos crackled and hissed, and within minutes the fire had raced up the mountainside.

Fire teams arrived, and hoses were rolled out, but quickly redirected to the homes nearby, which were threatened. Air support also arrived, with the thunderous rotars of the helicopters overhead, and spotter planes, and anxious home-owners and residents gathered, while phone calls were urgently made to alert people who were at work, and to find out whether animals were locked indoors or behind gates.

Just before going to print, I was told there had been some property damage; we’ll keep our online version updated.

The alchemy of fire is no stranger to our dry landscapes, but my heart ached so, as lovely silver trees became red-gold, and will be charred remains by morning – habitat no longer to the bird and animal life I’d always seen so much evidence of: soaring birds of prey above, porcupine quills and scat on the pathway, or scurrying feet and furtive sounds in undergrowth.

Carolyn Frost: Editor