|The fire started late at night. This is 2.00 a.m.|
Two weeks ago we experienced the worst fire on our mountain in fifteen years. Four thousand hectares of bush/forest were ravaged and 13 homes burnt down. I happened (in my usual insomniac way) to be awake in the middle of that Sunday night, listening to my local radio station when concerned citizens started to phone in. By 2.30 a.m. it had climbed over the mountain due to very high winds and was approaching the area where my daughter lives. I was very anxious: they were starting to evacuate people from the Old Age Home nearby. I wanted to phone her but was sure things would be under control. Sure enough, she told me the next day they had been evacuated at 3.00 a.m. Mercifully, the fire was prevented from entering their area and they were allowed back home the next afternoon. The fire was only brought under control after 4 days: the winds were ferocious, the flames incredibly high and the firemen incredibly brave. Local people rallied round with 24-hour refreshments and helped in any way they could. 450 firemen were brought in from other provinces. It was a huge effort. Our local radio station had a phone-in and raised almost R4 million for the volunteer organizations for training and equipment. Ironically, this had an unpleasant backfire reaction in our nearby shanty towns whose shacks regularly burn, especially in winter because of knocked-over candles and parafin fires. Bitterly, they asked why was there no such fund-raising when their own settlements burned and children died. They turned it into a racist thing: "citizens of Cape Town only care about the white people". This is untrue: every year all kinds of organisations help in the townships and they receive the services of the very same fire services. Some things we can't help with like the deaths. Many of these shack fires are the result of drunkenness or drug use, especially the ubiquitous tik. And are these evils not the result of unemployment, poverty and overcrowding? So many illegal immigrants cross our borders from N.Africa every day. False documents are so easy to obtain, The Internet helps and we have many corrupt officials in our Home Affairs departments. So who's to blame for their fires? This is Africa. A thought: the cause of this fire has not yet been established - the photographs are breath-taking and awesome - one can almost understand the compunction of pyromaniacs.