UNWELCOME SMOKE

There was an acrid smell in the air and the usually clear blue sky had turned a pale grey. The sweetish notes suggested a grass fire, although no smoke was visible from our garden.  That was until we drove to the top of the hill.

A veil of thin grey smoke rising into the air was clearly visible against the blue sky that had been hidden from view further down the hill. Judging from the direction the strong Berg wind was blowing, it was easy to tell why. Once on the N2, we could see the thick smoke billowing on the slope of the Rietberge that overlook town.

The extent of the veld fire was more evident from the 1820 Settler’s Monument.

As the sky darkened, the flames racing through the dry grassland were clearly visible – the choking smoke had now been blown right across town, filling the valley and moving way beyond the town.

It was apparent that the flames had taken hold and were blackening the mountain in a fury; their hungry journey hastened by the strong wind and the dry conditions of the veld.

The fire burned late into the night. We woke to a black mountain that now looms around us as a stark reminder of fires in the past and of how careful we must all be as the veld is tinder dry right now.

28 thoughts on “UNWELCOME SMOKE

  1. Gosh, that looks scary. We saw a very small fire last week in the valley but the ‘pompiers’ were soon on the scene. I think it was a few small trees or bushes, but I’m not sure how the fire started. When it happens near to villages or towns it’s very worrying. I hope nobody was hurt.

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    • Fortunately this fire occurred in an open ‘green belt’. Fire engines were on hand to protect the main buildings in the area. Largely thanks to the prolonged drought, the grass was short and so the flames did not get very high.

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  2. There has been so much loss from wildfires these past few years. I often wonder when this will stop being a threat .

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    • Often such runaway fires are started by accident or through carelessness – if there is a distinction. I doubt if we will ever be free of the threat. All we can try to do is to make people aware of the danger of lighting fires or discarding burning cigarettes in dry areas.

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  3. Oh Anne! There are very few things more frightening than a wildfire. How calm the burros look (in the first photo) accessing the situation. So glad you are safe. So sorry about your charred view. Wishing rain for you.

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  4. Gosh oh gosh! My heart was in my throat as I scrolled through the pictures. I was afraid the fire had reached you. Phew! So glad it didn’t. Eliza is right. Your photos capture the scene so well.

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  5. I’m afraid it’s the same story here on the Highveld, Anne – as soon as you venture beyond the suburbs and have a clear view to the horizon you are able to pick out rising clouds of smoke in all directions. Thankfully it is part of the natural cycle in the grasslands, and the rebound usually doesn’t take long. I hope the same goes for your mountain.

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    • Thank you for your kind thoughts, Lavinia. One has to be extra careful during a drought. I hope we both get some soaking rain before too long!

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  6. Sorry to hear that Anne. Here in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources was doing a “controlled burn” last week and the winds perked up and caused a wildfire. It raged out of control, people were evacuated for a day, but luckily they finally got it under control. Fires are scary.

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    • Wind is always a dangerous factor regarding fires, whether ‘controlled’ or not for if it rises unexpectedly, or changes direction then people can be hard-put controlling the flames.

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      • Yes Anne, the DNR said it was a sudden wind that caused a few sparks that were flying about to ignite on trees. I am sure the families breathed a huge sigh of relief when they could return to their homes.

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