© 2011 Linsen. All rights reserved. Bernard Bravenboer Helderberg Fire Somerset West 0016

Helderberg Aflame

There is a very particular tone that light takes when there is a fire. It takes on a deep orange, almost greasy look, and lends the world an eery, almost surreal quality.

We were having breakfast when we noticed it, and knew immediately there was a fire. We didn’t realise how close it was, however, and when we first went out for a better look we could see the smoke, but it seemed far off. It kept getting thicker, however, and by the time we went out again we could tell the fire was nearby. A quick walk up to the fence of the nature reserve revealed that the flames, fed by the strong wind that had been blowing all morning, were already attempting to escape the reserve and jump across to the farm above us and houses around ours.

Making our way back to our house through the thickening smoke and heat, we knew that we would have to leave. When a policeman arrived a minute later to tell us to take our cars and get out, we were already grabbing a handful of essentials to take with us. As we drove down Hillcrest, we were surrounded by increasing activity as more fire engines and police vehicles arrived, in addition to worried residents staring unbelievingly at the growing blaze.

We spent the day at my grandmother’s house, watching the mountain burn, our hearts skipping a beat every time another thick column of black smoke would rise from where we thought our house was, or when a mini-tornado spiralled across the nature reserve and into the houses, carrying smoke and ashes and heat.

Finally, late in the afternoon, we returned to find our house miraculously untouched. The fire had burned all around it, and most of our garden was reduced to ash and coals, but the home in which I grew up was untouched. The firemen still working on and around the property looked tired, and probably still had hours of hard work ahead of them. A few hours of putting out remaining fires on our property, getting a fence standing again and trying to extinguish hot spots where the fire had burned into the ground, and it seemed as though everything was under control.

Fire is a scary experience. Having had my entire life burnt down once before, I am unsure whether it worries me more or less now. Either way, it is never something to take lightly…

Image: Bernard Bravenboer

One Comment

  1. irize
    Posted 2 Jul ’12 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    have read this one before, but it is just so beautifully written, right from the heart of that experience, that i had to read it again, and felt it all over again… brave heart.

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