Tag Archives: fire

Helicopters at Working on Fire’s Newlands base

Helicopters at Working on Fire's Newlands base
Working on Fire is a government-sponsored organisation that trains men and woman (mostly from poor communities) how to fight bush fires, like those that threaten our green peninsula each summer. This base, at Newlands Forest, is one of over 200 bases (map) scattered across our country.

Visit their website to find out how you can get involved.

Nay, not Devin, it’s Jon-Peer playing with fire

Devin The Juggler playing with fire
Jon-Peer's mom clearly never told him not to play with fire. I watched JP from FireTribe perform is fire-rope act at Vaudeville, and I have to say that it was entrancing.

Us humans are so enchanted by fire - have you ever stood at a fire and just stared into the flames? That, and wonder, were more or less the feelings that I had while watching the burning ropes flash across the stage.

If you ever have the opportunity to see Jon-Peer's fire act - you shouldn't pass it up. :)

Edit: In case you're wondering, after publishing this post I realised that I had mistaken Jon-Peer for Devin The Juggler. Consequently I've edited this post to correct the information. I've seen Devin's crystal ball act at a corporate function a few months back and it was freegin' phenomenal - visit Devin's website for information and bookings.

Fire at sea

Warning sign

I don't recall ever hearing a news report about a ship sinking off our coast due to fire. The most recent incident of a fire at sea, that I'm able to recall, was last year when Cape Town's Fire and Rescue services boarded a cargo ship near Britannia Bay (map) to help extinguish a fire that had erupted in the ship's engine room. It took many hours of work under difficult conditions, but fortunately the ship and all it's crew were saved and towed back to Table Bay Harbour.

Imagine how scary it must be to have your ship catch alight while at sea. One would think that with all the water around it would be easy to extinguish a fire - but with the right flammable materials and without the necessary equipment - it's sometimes impossible to stop a fire before it causes the ship to sink.

I imagine that this door would lead to the engine room, and that opening it during a fire would supply oxygen to the flames, causing them to burn more furiously.

Bar on fire

Bar on fire

In a previous post I mentioned Che Latino Café in Brackenfell. While sitting outside trying desperately to even vaguely fit in with an entire crowd of friends that I didn't know, out of the corner of my eye I spotted an intense red glow coming from the bar area.

I jumped up to... take a photo and capture the moment. Naturally. :) But I found that the bar wasn't really on fire; the barman was squirting a flammable liquid along its length, creating this spectacular scene. What was surprising to me was that the patrons seemed to hardly even notice that the bar they were sitting at had flames leaping from it! (Leading me to believe that this was more of a regular thing than a special occasion.)

Stop bush fires in Cape Town

It's not a real fire extinguisher, silly

Don't you just love this idea? I wish I knew who decided that logs painted like fire extinguishers would get the message across. It's far more interesting and eye-catching than a sign that few would bother to read anyway.

Recently the weather's been super-hot in Cape Town, and with the lovely warm winds that we're having I guess it's the perfect weather for bush fires to blaze across the mountains. So folks, be careful not to drop bottles (they can act as magnifying glasses and start fires), and be sure not to drop your cigarette butts on the ground - some may argue that they can't start fires, but why risk it? Right? :)

One last thing: take a moment to save the Volunteer Wildfire Services hotline number to your phone - 086 110 6417. Give them a call if you spot a fire starting anywhere on or near the mountain.

Cold weather food

Cold weather food
Wet winter weather, cold days, and colder nights are conducive to enjoying a good potjie (pronounced poy-kie) cooked over open coals. "Potjiekos" is the official term for this traditional meal.

"Potjie" is an Afrikaans word meaning "little pot", interpreted in this context as a cast-iron pot. The idea is that one places the pot over a few coals and adds meat, onion, herbs and spices, letting them simmer until the meat is nicely browned. You can then add vegetables in layers (this allows the vegetables to keep their individual flavour so that you don't end up with veggie-mush), starting with harder vegetables like carrots and baby-marrow, and then working your way up from butternut and cauliflower, through to cabbage and potato pieces right at the end. Keeping the potato near the top of the stack is kinda important - otherwise you'll end up with mushy potato at the bottom of the pot.

Note the following critical success factors:

  1. don't even think of stirring the vegetables
  2. don't peek under the lid until quite some time has passed (like an hour or so)
  3. when you do peek, check that the meat and onion at the bottom aren't burning
  4. you shouldn't need to add water (this isn't soup or a stew ;) )
  5. if the potatoes on top are cooked and there's still a whole lot of liquid in the pot, leave the lid off so that it can boil away

Once the potatoes are cooked, and the liquid (drawn from the veggies) has cooked away, your potjie should be ready to eat. Oh, and like a typical guy, I forgot to mention: remember to cook some rice before the pot is ready... :)

I'd be interested to know if any of our readers have ever tried cooking a vegetarian potjie. Please leave a comment if you have - I'd love to know what one can use as a substitute for meat at the bottom of the pot.

Every day is a braai day

Braai fire

A weekend isn't really a weekend in Cape Town if it doesn't include at least one braai, is it? We had ours last night, with a couple of really good friends that we hadn't seen for a while.

If you're not familiar with the workings of a braai (which is kind of like a barbecue, just better :P ), here's a fairly typical description of what takes place:

Guests arrive, bringing meat (steak, lamb chops, sosaties and boerewors are the most popular choices) and drinks (beer is almost mandatory, at least for the guys, but red wine is a favourite too, and if you're in the northern suburbs then it's Klippies and Coke, of course). It's customary for each guest or couple to bring a side dish or a packet of chips, or even dessert - and this is usually arranged with the host beforehand. In our case, our hosts had told us not to bring anything, so we took them some easter eggs and sparkling grape juice instead. It's just not polite to arrive empty-handed. :)

Most of the time, you'll find the women in the kitchen for at least part of the evening, while the men are outside... um... tending the fire... or something. They make it seem terribly important, anyhow. It's a funny thing, because I'm sure that most of us girls could braai the meat if we wanted to, but this is one area of our lives where gender roles seem to have stuck. And you know what? I think we're all pretty okay with that.

So the guys cook the meat, while the girls get all the other bits and pieces set out on the table or the kitchen counter (potato salad, Greek salad, noodle salad, corn-on-the-cob, braaied mushrooms, and garlic bread are a few of the most common side dishes you'll see), and once the meat is cooked, everyone helps themselves, drinks are replenished, and we sit down together (outside if it's still warm enough - or, at some of the braais I've been to, even if it isn't) and eat until we can eat no more.

Bet you're hungry now, aren't you?

Did rain put the fires out?

Woman in smoke
The Stellenbosch Fire Department received reports of 100 fires in only 72 hours, and Cape Town's fire department received 83 reports of fires during office hours on Friday alone! It seems as though the whole of Cape Town is on fire.

The Stellenbosch Fire Chief was quoted as saying "Everywhere. Every area." in response to being asked where fires had been reported. Apart from the Stellenbosch fires and the 83 other reports within the Cape Town city limits, fires have been reported in Somerset West, Clanwilliam, Gansbaai, Hermanus, Plettenberg Bay, Algeria, Moutonshoek, Philadelphia, Bellville, Tygerberg, Strand, Monwabisi and Blikkiesdorp.

Today the temperature hit 40°C, although fortunately the wind remained at bay until late this evening. In retrospect it seems as though the hot weather today was a blessing in disguise. Earlier this evening we had a few rain showers (caused by the warm air rising) that will certainly help dampen the dry veld, and at least slow down the fire's progression. So far it looks as though Stellenbosch has had just over 5mm of rain this evening. With weather reports predicting more rain, we can only hope that they're accurate and that tomorrow holds in store many more showers.

If you missed yesterday's post, take a moment to look through the photo album that I put together with photos taken just outside of Stellenbosch yesterday evening.

As I'm typing this post I can hear large drops of rain falling again. Awesome.

Relevant News Articles:
Cape Argus

The Stellenbosch fires

Burning tree stumps
I was just complaining to friends that this summer has been fairly cool in comparison to previous years... and then today happened. It's really really hot in Cape Town.

The fires that started in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve have spread, threatening the town of Stellenbosch. They have in fact approached the edge of town, university property and even homes. Kerry-Anne and I took a drive out to Stellenbosch this evening to see what was happening with our own eyes. Click here to see the photos that I've uploaded to our photo album.

I had a brief opportunity to speak with one of the firefighters who came down from the bush in his vehicle to help lead a fire engine up to where the fire was raging. His blackened hands, the perspiration on his brow, and the way he said "It's not good" in answer to my question about how it was going, gave away how serious this fire could be.

An interesting thing that I noticed was that even though he'd been battling the fire for what must have been more than 12 hours already, he was still friendly and ready to kick some fire ass. A fireman is truly a different breed of person - and perhaps one who's sadly only really appreciated when fire threatens what we hold dear.

Break glass, press here

Fire alarm

Shopping malls and many other large buildings have fire alarms similar to this one. Don't you find that you just want to press on the glass? Every time I see one of these I have to hold myself back and stop myself from pressing that button. In fact, it took much restraint on my part not to press this one while trying to take the photo. I guess it's much like a dieting woman holding a slab of Lindt chocolate... irresistible. Well, almost irresistible.

The fire alarm in my office building is cleverly covered by a plastic flap that one would have to lift to expose the glass "button". It's a good thing too - I walk past this alarm 10 or 15 times each day.