Fynbos is very well designed to withstand our harsh Mediterranean-like climate with prevailing south easterly winds in the long hot, dry summers, sea salt laden air and acidic sandy soil. Our local plants are designed to burn with their flammable foliage and is cyclically conditioned to do so for its own benefit. A healthy quick and seasonal wild fynbos fire promotes biodiversity, seed germination and soil re-mineralization. But an unseasonal, too frequent (read man made) fires burning through alien vegetation rendering a high intensity heat can cause loss of biodiversity. Unfortunately the fire we had was the latter.
With an incredible collective of heroic neighbours, friends and fire fighters, the front lines of the fire were battled over several days and nights, and the property was saved, if a little licked around the edges by flames. Very fortunately no structures, people or domestic animals were harmed – the only real damage was human smoke inhalation and crispy red eyes, burnt shoes and feet, irrigation piping burnt away, a little wooden cabin was engulfed in flames but somehow miraculously survived, several of the plant nursery shade houses were charred, a special succulent plant collection destroyed by smoke and heat, vehicles damaged, mountainside steps and pathways consumed and reduced to ashes. And all the plants on the hills and mountains around us were gone. Poof. Vanished in a cloud of smoke like a disappearing magic trick, with only blacked stubs of flora left to tell the tale.
Post fire, the ash was a creature of its own. Deliciously re mineralizing for the soil, but detrimentally infuriating inside the houses. For weeks on end there was a thick layer of black ash covering every surface whenever the wind blew. Windowsills, books, inside every single tea cup, even on our faces when we woke – but when life knocks you sideways, you quickly realise how much you take for granted and we were just grateful to even have possessions for the ash to fall on.