Caretaking – a smoky, hot job

2017-01-31 06:01

A local caretaker has been heralded as a hero by his employers, after he saved their wedding venue from burning to the ground during recent wildfires in Simon’s Town.

The blaze destroyed all vegetation around the property, leaving it standing as a lush circle in the middle of a barren landscape.

Elias Sidhuna was at the Blue Horizons wedding venue on the morning of Wednesday 11 January when he noticed dark smoke moving towards the venue. Ashes began falling into the property and he tried to wet the buildings and gardens with a hosepipe.

The fire then jumped from the mountain slopes on the opposite side of the road, causing fencing on the property to catch alight.

Co-owner and general manager Naas Coetzee says he was trapped at the bottom of Red Hill Road, prevented from getting to the venue by firefighters, and convinced Sidhuna was in grave danger.

“I tried to get in but wasn’t allowed to by the firefighters. I phoned Elias and just told him to run,” he says. “I was just concerned about getting Elias out. In hindsight, it was the best place for him.”

Sidhuna initially fled the property, but returned shortly after.

“At first I ran away, but when I saw the flames had passed, I ran back. I saw there were lots of small flames and the trees had caught alight. I ran around with the hosepipe to kill the flames coming toward the building,” he says.

The flames damaged several trees and a section of ground at the back of the property. It also damaged wooden fencing.

“I was scared,” says Sidhuna. “The fire didn’t die easily. It kept rising again and I had to run up and down for up to six hours. The firefighters were following the big flame, but I had to kill the small flames left behind.”

Sidhuna was helped by two volunteer firefighters and a photographer to keep the flames at bay, says co-owner Tracy Coetzee.

“It’s business as usual for us, and it’s only thanks to the bravery of these men. Elias was trapped on the property and between fighting the fire we were getting blow-by-blow accounts as to what was happening from him on his cellphone. It was nerve-wracking as fire services prevented us from accessing the road leading to the property.”

The venue has weddings booked every weekend until April, Naas explains, with the potential loses, that could have resulted from more damage, staggering.

Naas adds: “We call [Sidhuna] a hero. It gives a new meaning behind the venue. It could have easily burnt down and taken months to rebuild.”

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