Uncaring property owners could have prevented this disaster

Writing about fires in St Francis seems sadly, to have become an almost annual event. In the four years that St Francis Today has been online as a daily web news / blog we have experienced three major fires.  None less destructive than the other but for the fact the last two have resulted in the loss of no fewer the 20 plus homes. But it is not about fires that we write today for there are links to several national and local publications covering this tragic disaster below.

Certainly the past two weeks has left St Francis Bay reeling from tragedy with last week’s brutal death of local businessman Duncan Lethbridge. 

Our column today is rather to acknowledge the incredible work of those who risk life and limb to deal with such disasters and those who have who have put together the planning that coordinates all those involved in dealing with the disasters.  And to berate those inconsiderate property owners who ignore pleas to clear the undeveloped land.

To this end the St Francis Disaster Volunteer Group (SF DVG) was formed shortly after the fires that threatened first Sea Vista and then, as it destroyed thousands of hectare of fynbos, Cape St Francis. From time to time smaller fires that have threatened Sea Vista has seen the DVG WhatsApp communication channel ‘light up’ to coordinate whatever action may be required to quell any threat.

From the moment the text from Heather White, a DVG member “Anyone noticed the fire in the village… Lyme Rd area“ on the DVG Whatsapp appeared this amazing group sprang into action. Within minutes all those involved in this essential and critical service were aware of the potential threat with first response teams activated and ready to follow the coordinated instruction.

NSRI Station 21 St Francis Bay duty crew was activated as a first responder as were the Cape St Francis DVG Crew. Once it was realized that the fire was indeed spreading NSRI Station 36 Oyster Bay, Humansdorp Fire Department firefighters and several volunteers all gathered to assist what had become an almost unstoppable inferno. Some 80 plus firefighter assisted in trying to stop the carnage and they all deserve our respect and  thanks.

Unfortunately as the fire spread it engulfed homes along Lyme Road North before jumping St Francis Drive to continue its destruction along Peter Road. All in all 11 homes seems to be the final count but thankfully there was no injury or deaths. To those who have lost their homes, you are in the the thought and prayers of the entire community.

During last year’s fires around Harbour Road, the DVG truly showed its worth as it did again yesterday, coordinating everything from deployment of the first responders, to face masks, eye drops, water vital to keep fire fighters hydrated.

The elected committees setup a command post on the Fire Station premises on St Francis Drive where in the case of a disaster, not only a fire, disaster management could be coordinated from. Effective communication channels were set up not only for communicating with those actively involved in dealing with the disaster but also to organize support requirements, medical, food, drink, transport, traffic control and most other services that may be needed in an emergency or disaster situation.

But the real problem are those property owners who refuse to clear their land.

Once again the need to clear bush is at the fore and the municipality simply has to show no mercy for those property owners who simply ignore appeals to clear their unoccupied / undeveloped land. This disaster could have been prevented had the bush been cleared. Fine those who ignore demands and if they don’t pay the fines, confiscate their land.