Forget Africa, Stellenbosch Burns!
Fires are not at all uncommon in the Stellenbosch area. For the five years I have been here, I have seen some pretty bad, as well as spectacular, fires. But none of them compare in scale to the one raging at the moment.
Apparently1 the fire started in the Jonkershoek nature reserve. The reserve itself is very close to town—in fact, the gate faces towards some of the rez’s. From there it spread up towards the Stellenbosch mountain. This all happened on day one. It seems like it was contained towards the town, but slipped over to the other side of the mountain. Meanwhile, as I noticed this morning, the fire’s flank maneuvered past the fire fighters and was also rapidly heading in the other direction: closer to where I live. It is still far away, but things seem really bad and the usual scaremongering is rife on campus.
Notable buildings threatened (but which did not burn down) include the gym at Coetzenburg and the Tokara restaurant/wine farm outside of town.
On the first day of the fire I heard the initial reports on the fire, but didn’t think much of them. I then went to sleep and woke up late in the afternoon. By then, it looked like the apocalypse: a thick blanket of smoked covered the town and the rays of the sun which managed to break through illuminated the town in an eerie and foul orange glow. I was a very unnerving sight to wake up to, especially when one considers that my bedroom window overlooks a part of town from a small hill. For the next two days, our blanket of greenhouse gas (and perhaps some radiance from the fires themselves) helped heat the town to a few degrees more than it should have been underneath the summer sun. All across town, furniture doubtlessly smells like smoke and people opt to drive rather than walk, not wanting to expose their lungs to the foggy smoke. This evening, as I drove home, the sky looked clearer to the west, but in the east (where the fires are), was covered in a thick, low laying dark grey cloud. It looks like heavy thunderclouds, but in stead of large rain drops, these clouds spew forth red embers.
Conditions for fire fighting could not have been worse. Not only were there no incoming rain, but a strong, warm wind blew, which obviously fed the fire like petrol. Today the wind had quieted down, but it seems like the fire is still spreading. These conditions incubated not only the fires around Stellenbosch, but also nearly half-a-dozen other fires throughout the Western Cape.
Lets hope and pray these fires are soon extinguished!
- Please note that all my information comes from second-hand sources. I disqualify all the insane panicky rumours, but I believe a fair amount of the the reasonable sounding news I get, as the fire are hard to ignore where they are burning just a short distance away. [↩]