St Francis Today back online from today

It is with a rather heavy heart that we enter our return to publishing St Francis Today in 2021. As if 2020 was not Annus Horribilus enough  we start the year with the very sad news of one of our very own with Peri’s passing from this awful virus. Friend to so many both locals and visitors who got to know him over the years through the iconic of Big Time Taverna, Peri, a St Francis legend, is going to be missed. Hopefully Peri will be St Francis’ first and last Covid death so let’s all stay cautious and safe.

To add to what was a somber week was the sad, sad death of little Luniko who was so tragically killed when his bicycle collided with a vehicle on the R330.  It was a very unfortunate accident but certainly serves as a reminder as to how very careful drivers must be when passing by the township as kids and animals often line the roadside.

Drivers also need to show more patience and care when travelling along Tarragona Road through Sea Vista. Hardly a week goes by that a dog is either killed or badly injured.  constantly approaches Kouga municipality to place more speed control humps in the road but to no avail to date. Left to pick up the costs of treating so many badly injured animals, St Francis Animal Rescue all too often has to pay the veterinary fees to help these injured animals. As a charity organisation dependent on the generosity of the community SFAR would far rather spend the money on improving the lives of the township pet community through sterilisation, feeding and fencing efforts rather than on accidents that could be avoided with a little  effort by the municipal authorities. , Please Mr Mayor don’t let it be the death of a child that finally motivates some action. More calming hamps are desperately needed for even the 10-tonners exceed the speed limit.

On the Covid front things seem to be stabilising and we each need to do all we can to ensure we stop this blight from wreaking more illness on our community.

Thoughts and condolences are with both  Peri’s and Luniko’s family, you will be mourned but remembered.

Back to today’s news. We haven’t changed the layout much but after several readers asked us to please reinstate the Crossword, Jigsaw and Soduko puzzles we have given them a new page of their own so  to get your puzzle fix just click on the Puzzle Page link on the menu line. Also …..we will only be publishing on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the end of January as we work on some includes.

Puzzle page

We will be making some changes over the coing weeks so please let us know your suggestions in the Comments link below

Covid Stats Sarah Baartman 07 January

Dam Levels - 4 Jan Kouga Region

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”

A Whatsapp message from Jal Rigaard, Cape St Francis Civics Chairman, on the DVG WhatsApp group midday on Thursday was possibly one of the first warning of another fire about to threaten the St Francis area. With weather conditions almost identical to those on that horrid hot day in January 2016 when a flare fired at a political rally unintentionally ignited the bush inside the fenced area of Eskom land opposite the Sea Vista playing field. A strong easterly wind did the rest turning a small fire into a raging inferno within minutes.

That 2016 fire burnt thousands of hectare of bush killing unknown numbers of wildlife that inhabit the bush as it ravaged the land. As it raged on, constantly changing direction from east to west to a south and back to a westerly, those in Cape St Francis with homes bordering the nature reserves now came under threat and as the fire drew closer residents had little option but to grab what they needed and evacuate. Such must have been the thoughts if not actions of some of those whose homes along Oyster Bay Road that were under treat on Thursday and Friday as this latest fire raged.

No sooner had Jal reported the smoke that the wheels of the various disaster management groups started turning. Kouga Fire was on site almost immediately with help from Sarah Baartman on the way and St Francis Disaster Volunteer Group (SFDVG) fully mobilised for logistical and backup with support from NSRI St Francis & Oyster Bay ready to assist. Working With Fire soon had feet on the ground to face the blaze with a spotter plane and helicopter placed on standby.

Following the 2016 fire a group consisting St Francis Property Owners, St Francis Links, Cape St Francis Civics, Kouga Municipality and Eskom and others met and over the following months put together a disaster management plan to manage any disaster whether fire, flood earthquake or pandemic that may befall St Francis to ensure whatever the disaster it could be efficiently managed and coordinated. And so the formation of St Francis Disaster Volunteer Group (SFDVG) was formed and volunteers enlisted  from local volunteers.

During the December 2018 fires off Harbour Road, SSFVG were on hand to assist with logistics ensuring that not only were fire fighting effort coordinated from crown and traffic control, coordination of  support aircraft and  that fire fighters had necessary equipment, sustenance and medication to allow them to front up to the fires that were intent on destruction. And so too on the Lyme Road fires where more houses were raised to the ground in another intense fire that was preventing more destruction through the coordinated effort to control and finally extinguish the blaze.

Few would have actually thought it likely that the SFDVG would ever face need to prepare plans for a pandemic but when Covid-19 struck, SFDVG were ready. As South Africa went into full lockdown (Level 5) SFDVG immediately mobilised creating a Covid emergency facility at St Francis Bowling Club equipping it with beds, bedding and other needed equipment and supplies should a need to accommodate the infected in such a facility arise. Then as the reality of the possibility of hundreds of Sea Vista men, women and children facing starvation having virtually lost their source of income overnight, DVG again came to the fore raising funds and over a 14 week period sourcing, packing and distributing some 6500 food parcels to those in need in our township all without municipal or government assistance. (https://stfrancistoday.com/sea-vista-food-relief-project-paused-to-reassess-needs/)

Back to the fire.

As Friday dawned exhausted firefighter fought on waiting for air support from a spotter plane and a Huey helicopter. As the fire formed new fronts threatening to jump the road and leaving several homeowners facing the reality of possibly joining the many who have lost their homes in and around St Francis in fires over the years. Coordinating events from a control centre set up in a St Francis Links conference room, firefighters and support personnel and equipment was directed to hot spots as and when the fire jumped and changed direction with the wind that had turned almost 180 degrees from the previous day.

SFDVG Control room at St Francis links

The control centre set up at St Francis Links to coordinate the fire fighting effort

By nightfall much of the fire had been contained and tired and hungry crews could relax a little for the first time is 48 hours. Mother Nature finally lent a helping hand by gently sprinkling a little misty rain on the fire parched earth. Red hot coals glowed around the roots of recently burnt Port Jackson’s ready to ignite with the slightest breath of wind as firefighters remained alert  but able to  rest up get some needed sustenance. 

Sunday saw several flare ups that were quickly extinguished and Kouga Mayor Horatio Hendricks who had kept the public well informed throughout releasing several media bulletins advising of progress finally confirming the danger  was finally over. An excavator was due to create a firebreak on the western edge to prevent the fire spreading further west and the helicopter and spotter were stood down but ready should they be needed to be deployed should. A fresh team of firefighters was also deployed.

So again thanks to all the firefighters, the pilots and other support staff involved for keeping the folk of St Francis Bay safe. And SFDVG your planning and coordinating efforts of the frontline again proved vital and essential minimizing potential damage or loss.

The Disaster Volunteer Group (DVG), including the NSRI, remains closely in contact with the senior fire officers on duty and will activate and assist as necessary. 

FOOTNOTE FROM DVG

“The DVG is so grateful that we are able to feed the firefights still on the ground, attending to the Oyster Bay Road fire for the past days. Monetary donations from the generous public made it possible to feed 100 fighters on the Thursday and another 60 on Friday. We thank you!.

Our thanks also to Gary De Bruin of Chill Beverages for the donation of beverages, our local Village Square Superspar and St Francis Links for provisions and preparation.

Furthermore, we thank the kind owners of i-Lollo Lodge and Christy’s Seafood & Grill for accommodating and proving dinner to the 2 pilots last night.

What a community!”