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VeldTalk - Facing The Fire Dragon
From VeldTalk No 78
Facing the Fire Dragon
"I watched the fire dragon last night - devouring everything in its path," said Karen Davidson of the Oori Private Nature Reserve, not far from Lanseria Airport. "What do you pack when you have 15 minutes to evacuate?
"I had moments of panic until a sudden peace surrounded me. I became very practical in packing bare essentials to drive my daughter, Krysstel, and the dogs to safety through the inferno coming at us while my husband, Glen, was out helping to fight the fire."
It was Sunday 2 November and a hot, fierce wind fanned a raging fire over the veld, driving terrified game before it. "It was very, very sad hearing the animals cry in the fire. To my core I will be touched by their pain," lamented Karen. "The wind changed at the last moment and our home was spared but the Oori is a blackened crisp..."
Tallying the cost was difficult in the charred landscape but it seemed most game managed to flee. An impala was injured and a baby eland died, but the survivors were left with no grazing. Local resident, Pierre le Grange of Kentucky Horse Sport, immediately sent out a plea for help and several hundred bales of lucerne arrived, donated by concerned friends and neighbours.
Four days later an ecstatic Karen wrote: "After shedding many tears for the animals caught in the runaway wildfire we found one ostrich this morning. The rest are still missing in action after I saw six running ahead of the fire on Sunday afternoon. Mr Ostrich, our "own" ostrich (he sleeps on our property and greets us every morning with his funny antics on our way to school) is still nowhere to be seen. But there is hope now. The giraffe family made it out too."
"About a quarter of the Oori was lost on Sunday and, with previous fires this season, half the Oori has burnt this year," said local resident, Angelique Stewart. "We need to learn from this disaster: and ensure that we burn adequate fire breaks and adhere to the correct veld and game management guidelines. On the positive side - the Oori really pulled together, people came from far and wide to help and every hand and every drop of water counted. In emergencies like these, I believe that belonging to a FPA would provide us with additional manpower, support and equipment so desperately needed."
- A week later a fire destroyed 6 000 ha west of the Oori, jumped the R512 in Rhenosterspruit and started up once more in the Oori. Three people, fighting the fire, were caught in the conflagration and subsequently died: Adrian Haywood, Peter Molomo and Bornfirst Moyo. "In our 11 years on the farm, we've never experienced this level of devastation. There was nowhere to hide from the all-consuming wall of flames," said Pierre le Grange.
- Offers of financial help for the families of Adrian, Peter and Bornfirst have been pouring in from across the region. A local resident, Celeste de Freitas, opened a bank account for the families and at last tally R50 000 had been collected.