#808. Monday Post (14 Jan 2019) – Just one thoughtless person…

By Paul Perton | Monday Post

Jan 14

 

 

You may be aware that we’ve been besieged in the Kogelberg region, by huge veldt fires since New Years Eve. The area is a United Nations Biosphere – the biodiversity is believed to be greater than anywhere else on the planet; more than 1500 distinctly different forms of flora can be found in this narrow coastal strip, which stretches from Cape Town up South Africa’s south eastern coast towards Mossel Bay and Knysna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve saw one reveller* light a marine distress flare, which almost spent, fell into the tinder dry fynbos nearby.

 

The prevailing south easterly wind at this time of year quickly turned a few flames into a conflagration, which then raced towards neighbouring Pringle Bay and across the Kogelberg, from where on day ten, it was in sight of Gordon’s Bay, having burned its way many kilometres across the mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday morning, the wind swept around to a gale force north westerly, which blew the whole fire front back to where it had started, creating even more destruction. Almost 20,000ha of pristine fynbos has been lost.

 

The supreme efforts of the fire fighting teams and helicopter water bombers managed to control the situation with the help of some blessed rain and by Saturday morning, the worst was over. At least for the fire fighters. For the many that had lost their homes, the heartache has just started.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I went out yesterday (Saturday) to try and capture the essence of the devastation. These photographs show just a tiny glimpse of the fire damage. More than 30 homes have been lost and at least one death is attributed to smoke inhalation. I see no reason to venture into people’s sorrow and difficulties, so my focus here has been purely on the flora.

 

All of these photographs have been shot with the Fuji X-H1 and either the 90mm f2, or SBH (16-55 f2.8 zoom).

 

On a final note, fynbos requires fire in order for its seeds to germinate and much effort is expended year-round to keep invasive species to a minimum. In addition to their ability to overrun the fynbos while using precious water, these plants, bushes and trees also burn at considerably higher temperatures than our native fynbos and in so doing, destroy the seeds which would ensure survivability of this extraordinary gift from Mother Nature.

 

So, will the fynbos survive? Some rain in the next couple of weeks ought to start the seed germination cycle and hopefully, soon we’ll then see some hopeful green shoots pushing their way out of the sand and ash.

 

  • Our reveller is currently languishing in jail and unlikely to see his home and family for some considerable time.

Finally, we’re still looking for submissions in Pascal’s recent post, Photograph it like you mean it. Click through here – perhaps you have something to submit?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • philb says:

    Paul, I am more than ambivalent at saying “well done” for a post that documents other people’s catastrophic loss. That doesn’t mean you didn’t do well, you did, in conveying the devastation.
    Fortunately Mother Nature will mend itself, and loss of material goods can be fixed up to a point with insurance money.
    And I am glad for you that you came to no harm. Stay safe, fires are a powerful, mean, treaturous foe!

    • paulperton says:

      Thanks Philippe. As I said in the text, I wanted to avoid the inevitable prurience that accompanies people’s loss and opted to focus on the damage we do to our surroundings. As these fires are a regular occurrence in the region, the capability of the firefighting teams is at a very high level. This has been the worst fire in a very long time, possibly since records have been kept and thankfully, only one person seems to have succumbed.

      Of course, the damage to wildlife is inestimable. Daily, reports of burnt, or dead buck, porcupines, tortoises and our regionally unique baboon species are received. To the best of my knowledge, the family of Cape Leopard that has lived nearby survived, but until some evidence of this is found, we won’t know. However you look at it, it’s a tragedy.

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Very interesting. While we have to regret the loss of life and property it is ironic that prevention of fire is to some extent responsible for the devastation caused when there IS a fire!

    Those who want more information on fynbos veld management and the necessity for fire should Google Dr Tony Rebelo’s views.

    The following quote from IOL News ( 5 June 2008, 2:30pm / John Yeld) sums it up –

    “Another major problem is fire – or rather, the lack of it, he (Dr Rebelo)notes.

    Even small areas of remaining natural fynbos must burn to survive, but getting permission, and on the right kind of day for natural fires – hot and windy conditions – is extremely difficult.

    “This lack of permission to burn means that on the Cape Peninsula, only about one-third of the area required to be burnt to maintain the optimal 15-year fire cycle, actually burns. Ironically, arsonists are the saviours of fynbos,” he says.”

    Living in Knysna and having seen the damage caused by the uncontrolled build up of fuel mainly in alien plantations, one can only hope that more burning will take place to
    avoid a repetition in 20 years time.

    This article from the George Herald from 2017 is eerily prescient given the massive fires late last year.

    https://www.georgeherald.com/News/Article/General/call-to-action-safeguard-george-against-fire-20170711

  • pascaljappy says:

    In Australia, aboriginal people set fire to the bush when grasses are short and green. This ensures there’s not a lot to burn when the summer comes along, in an attempt to avoid huge uncontroled bush fires. It also serves to regenerate some plant species. Shouldn’t something similar be done in your area, in order to prevent those enormous veldt fires? Particularly if some people are allowed to build their homes in the middle of that environment. It all seems such a sad waste of nature and people’s lives.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  • Andy says:

    Paul’s pictures are very impressive. I didn’t know about the Fynbos plant. In summer 2017, a series of fierce wildfires hit the southern coast of France. One of the most devastating forest fires rolled through the forested hills of Gigaro near La-Croix-Valmer, destroying hundreds of acres of vegetation. The hillsides are covered by an emerald-green blanket of parasol pines, creating one of the most beautiful forests I have ever seen. I explored the area in spring 2018 several times to capture the fire-ravaged landscape in dusk and moonlight. Some solitary blackened trees stand as a sad memorial to the event but there are hopeful signs of recovery and rejuvenation. Here’s the link to my project: https://www.behance.net/gallery/65448533/Forest-Fire-Aftermath

  • Andy says:

    Paul’s pictures are impressive and educational. I didn’t know about the Fynbos plant. In summer 2017, a series of fierce wildfires hit the southern coast of France. One of the most devastating forest fires rolled through the forested hills of Gigaro near La-Croix-Valmer, destroying hundreds of acres of vegetation. The hillsides are covered by an emerald-green blanket of parasol pines, creating one of the most beautiful forests I have ever seen. I explored the area in spring 2018 several times to capture the fire-ravaged landscape in dusk and moonlight. Some solitary blackened trees stand as a sad memorial to the event but there are hopeful signs of recovery and rejuvenation. Feel free to check out my pictures: https://www.behance.net/gallery/65448533/Forest-Fire-Aftermath?mv=product&mv2=accc

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