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Second para-cyclist evacuates after raging Cape fires
- Updated: March 18, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
Two weeks ago it was world champion hand-cyclist Justine Asher who had to evacuate her Noordhoek home because of the south Peninsula fires…. last week it was the turn of two-time Paralympian Roxy Burns.
Burns and her family live right on the edge of the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch and also ended up having to pack up and relocate.
Thankfully in both cases the raging fires were warded off in the nick of time and the two sports aces were able to head back home the next day.
Burns takes up the tale: ‘In the morning I was working at home and heard the fire-fighting plane overhead and saw some smoke in the reserve, but it was small so we didn’t worry.
‘The next morning and afternoon it was supposedly put out and there was just smoke. But in the evening the wind picked up and we knew the fire was going to cause problems for the plantations but it looked like it was on the opposite side of the valley.’
‘But it was moving fast, after supper at about 8.30 we walked up about a kilometre behind our house to go and watch and the fire was moving fast as we watched.
‘And there was another smaller one heading straight for the houses. We hurried back home to warn the other residents to be ready to evacuate. We packed up the cats and dogs and got ready to leave and waited for as long as we could until about 11:30pm before we took the cars down to a friend in town, then we got a lift home to see what was happening.’
The scenario when they returned was not a pretty one (see picture above). ‘The whole mountain was aglow, and we could see the glow heading for our house, my parents didn’t want to leave until it was absolutely necessary, so I went down with a friend to sleep at her house and that was about 1am. Needless to say i didn’t sleep.’
The news got worse though. ‘At 4am my dad texted me to say the firefighters had abandoned their efforts, the fire was out of control and they were about to leave.
‘Miraculously my parents managed to get the firetrucks back to come and protect the houses and they were spraying flames right in front of our side gate for three hours. The fire was diverted around the back of the houses but thankfully didn’t get to any.
‘When my dad said the firefighters were abandoning I accepted that the house was gone! Luckily we had about two hours to decide what to pack – passports/ID’s, computers etc and books and paintings.
‘The water pipes melted around 3.30am so the houses had no water.’
Like many before and after her Burns was full of praise for the fire services. ‘The firefighters were amazing – without their help our house would have been gone and it reminds you how much you need to trust God and how much he cares! He definitely had us in his hands that night, both our safety and protection of our house.
‘Also the support of the whole community in support of the firefighters was amazing, there was just so much food and water and they were well fed and energised.
‘Our house is still smoky and filled with ash.. but the main thing is that it’s still standing.. through the hard work of the firefighters and by the grace of God!’