Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Flash Fynbos fire - a close escape
Fire in Fonty-Land
The 15th of January was a crazy day. I started out hacking on Fonty, thinking I'd get a release out by the end of the day but after a few hours the strong smell of smoke changed all that.
We live in the Fynbos (the Western Cape floral kingdom) at the foot of a mountain range. There was a hot wind blowing fast, the house was whistling at every small gap. The brush around us was lying horizontal in the wind and a pall of smoke wrapped around the mountain and quickly erased the sun -- it was twilight at twelve noon.
I saved my work, unplugged the computer and we started packing important things into our car. We had less than half an hour before we had to leave for breathing was not possible and we could see the fire pouring down the mountainside.
After that things took a few hours - the fire stretched in a long line along the mountain and the wind kept it there. The firemen (all volunteers) only had one hose for us and it was not long enough to reach the fire. We had to wait for it to come to us, and it did, rapidly.
Before I knew it, the smoke was a thick white world and my eyes were too sore to open. I staggered down the road (where I grabbed my camera and took some pics). The other fire fighters also backed-out and we said goodbye to our house and all our stuff.
The numbers were with us; the speed of the burn and the last few brave seconds of pouring water onto it gave the stats a twist and all we lost was a few windows - the flames could have burst inwards and torched the place, burning it from the wooden rafters, inside-out; but we got lucky.
Naturally, I do not attribute our good fortune to Odin, Zeus, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Elron Hubbard, Mother Nature, Batman or anything similarly foolish. It was all down to chance and a lot of brave fire-fighting volunteers. Our sincerest thanks go out to them.
Several more hours were then spent with the firemen (and me and the half-melted garden hose) putting out glowing embers in the sizzling hot ash of the Fynbos. The ground is (even now, the next day) still burning underneath, out of sight. The fire that nearly got us was a direct relative of one that raged last week over three kilometers away. It woke up again and spread...
I finally got to sleep, in my smokey room, after 3 AM. I am glad my Internet is up and working. The phone lines all burned, I watched then light-up and fall, but I use a wireless connection and it was untouched - what a relief!
So, Fonty Python nearly met it's end in a melted heap. If we had not had enough time to get some vitals into the car...
Well, here are some photos of the event.
Oh, and Fonty version 0.3.4 will be out in a few days. I have layers of ash to clean from everything, including myself.