A quick trip up to Silvermine (because we were in the area) was fairly depressing. The Reserve is closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future after the huge fire. Because it was off-the-cuff, I didn’t take the camera up (maybe I’ll find time for that tomorrow), so please excuse these phone pics. I think they still give you a pretty good idea of the nothingness that remains after the blaze.

Compare that with this pic from last October. It’s all rather barren and moonscapy.

Here’s some more information on the damage to the infrastructure in the Reserve, and a reminder that its closure has many knock on effects, not least the lack of casual employment for Henry, the car park guard there:

Henry Josephs, the car guard at the reservoir parking, is now without a job.  He has been working there for about eleven years and has become a familiar face.  He has been entrusted with car keys and possessions while folks have gone swimming.  He has learnt a lot about the fauna and flora to pass on to visitors. So he was special feature in the parking area.

Incidentally, if you should wish to help Henry out, his banking details are listed at the end of that post.

Mr Henry Josephs

as well as the contact details of Sue Frew – Chairperson of Friends of Silvermine Nature Area – FOSNA.

Unsurprisingly, because that’s how nature works, there are some green shoots coming through the grey ash. But they’re few and far between at the moment. Aside from tomorrow’s possible visit, I’ll make a plan to get up there again in the next few weeks to see just how much change there has been.

More fire expertise…

It turns out that just a couple of weeks before the big Cape Town fire got started above Kalk Bay, a one Dr Simon Pooley was at a bookshop in Kalk Bay, launching his latest book all about fires on Table Mountain.

What? No!
No. I wasn’t saying that at all. Leave me out of the wild accusations formed by your cynical mental gymnastics. I’m sure his book sales would have been superb anyway. Interesting subject.
Topical. Suddenly very topical.

Anyway, when the fires came, Dr P was obviously the go-to guy for some Cape Times column inches – you can read them here (or in PDF here) – in which he told us that fires are (and always have been) a regular part of living next to the Table Mountain National Park:

Fires are by nature sensational news, and nowhere else in South Africa is this more so than on the Cape Peninsula, where a national park protecting fynbos which must burn every 10 to 20 years is bordered by the country’s parliamentary capital city, which must not.

Great line, right there. The rest of it is a good read too. And we’ve already touched on the ecological importance of the fire. But I also liked these few salient points from ‘Die Kaartman’, who (while agreeing with much of what the good doctor said) added to Pooley’s piece thus:

Whether the fire was deliberately set or caused by human carelessness is irrelevant in the end, because on Wednesday, while the fire was still raging on several fronts, lightning started a fire at Cape Point. The wind switched to a strong south-easter and the fire was only contained because it moved into an area of younger veld [a recent controlled burn]. Now imagine the Peninsula 365 years ago, clothed in 15 year old fynbos without any roads or houses. The same bolt of lightning on 4th March 1650, in the same weather conditions, would have burned the entire Peninsula, all the way to Table Mountain. If ever any more evidence was needed that fire is a natural phenomenon in fynbos, this was it.

The point they both make is that this was always going to happen and it will happen again. And while we can protect ourselves against it to some degree, it’s simply too big a thing to prevent. Thus, the clever money is on building smart (no thatch roof, no wooden fence, no building in the fire breaks etc) rather than assuming that we’re done now and that there won’t be another fire.

Because, some time in the next 10-20 years, there will be.

Photo of man holding dead dog is very touching, isn’t from Cape Town

In the… well, in the “duringmath” (it’s like an aftermath, but for an ongoing event, see?) of the Muizenberg Fire, this heartbreaking photo has been doing the rounds:

deaddog …described as:

This man is holding his dog who passed on due to smoke inhalation. This picture was taken just after firefighters brought her out. Dogs aren’t just pets. Dogs are family.

or like this:

That tweet in response to this post, by the way. [link now expired. sadness.]

Yes. Very touching – and at least partially true (see below) – but this isn’t from Cape Town.

This is from Reading, Pennsylvania, USA. Here’s the story from the 31st January this year via the (paywalled) Reading Eagle:

On Friday, five dogs died after a fire broke out in the second floor of a northwest Reading, Pennsylvania row home. One of the dog’s owners, Shamel English was devastated at the loss of his pitbull named Gemini. Eleven people lost their home, reports the Reading Eagle.

The fire may have started from an electrical problem. Authorities are investigating.

Amanda Moser, 31, her husband Shamel English and Moser’s mother, Diane Fritz were home when the fire broke out. The family managed to usher their two dogs out the door, but for an unknown reason Gemini ran back into the burning home.

“She must have gotten scared and then ran straight back into the house. They (firefighters) brought her out, but by then she had passed on,” the grieving dog parent English stated. “She was more than a dog; she was a part of our family.”

Firemen tried their best to resuscitate Gemini, but it was too late. English carried her lifeless body to the porch, and grieved. English stated he found Gemini when she was only three-weeks-old wandering in an alley. She was reported to have been a sweet and friendly dog.

The other dogs that died in the fire were Chihuahuas.

English’s other pit bull named Poe survived the fire. He was safely tied up at a neighbor’s home.

Rest in peace Gemini.

It’s probably worth noting that he’s likely quite upset that he doesn’t have a house or any possessions any more either.
No, don’t throw sharp things at me. He is. You would be too, whether you had a dog or not.

So there you have it. Sad, yes. Cape Town, no.

Listen, I do appreciate the sentiment, but let’s not just pretend that every photo that fits our agenda happened this week in the Cape Town fires.

One big – huge, even – local newsworthy event doesn’t mean that you should forget your responsibility to not be a doos and share misinformation on the internet.

Please try to remember that.

Some More Fire Stuff

RAIN: It’s raining in Cape Town. And while all the helicopter buckets in the world (which obviously aren’t in Cape Town anyway) are great, the clouds can do a much better job on the ongoing fire. Still, it’s just rain. And while it’s very welcome news: it’s actually quite a lot later than we would have liked.
Maybe He has been busy since Sunday. Mysterious ways and all that.

Hang on, he’s got that wrong, hasn’t he?

Yep. Thought so.

But it’s obviously thanks to some people’s hard praying that we’re all saved. Or something.


Anyway, while the wet stuff falls over the greater Cape Town area, it still only came down as “a passing shower” over some of the affected areas. So we’re definitely not out of what’s left of the woods yet.

BOTANY: In other news, here’s a great post on why what has happened, happens:

The burning of fynbos vegetation is an inevitability. It is sad that people are negatively affected but it is far from sad that the veld itself is burning. This vegetation type has been subjected to fire for millennia and the optimum fire interval is every 10-14 years. Fire is a keystone process without which many plants in the fynbos would not be able to regenerate, produce offspring or reproduce. Fynbos plants are either resprouters or reseeders: Either they can resprout after a fire has passed through or they produce seeds that are adapted to survive fire and require heat from the fire and chemical compounds from the smoke to germinate.

I’d urge you to go and read that whole post. Really interesting stuff, well-written and well-aimed at us lay-botanists.

MAPHere’s a thing where you can see how big the fire area would be, were it to be dropped on your locality. It’s set at 3000 hectares as I write, although that was the area affected on Monday morning – I’ve watched it move much further since then. But it does give some idea.


PHOTO: Finally, still my favourite photo of this whole thing (and there have been a lot of photos of this whole thing):


I don’t know who took it or where it’s taken, but it just indicates the scale of the task that the local firefighters have been up against.