Melanie Verwoerd | When the flames come home

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Firefighters battle a raging fire in  Vredehoek in gale force winds and heavy smoke on 19 April.
Firefighters battle a raging fire in Vredehoek in gale force winds and heavy smoke on 19 April.
Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Melanie Verwoerd writes of her experience of evacuating her home this week when the fire that gutted a restaurant at Rhodes Memorial and buildings at UCT got close to her house.

When you live on the mountainside in Cape Town, every little puff of smoke draws stomach tightening attention. Things can escalate fast – especially during the summer when vegetation is dry. If the South Easter starts blowing (as it so often does in summer), it becomes a race against time. 

I live in home which is in the second last row of houses on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, abutting the nature reserve. In our street, those of us who have lived there since the mid-90s are regarded as fire veterans, since most summers there are a couple of burns on the mountain and, about every five years, we have a big one. For this reason, we have a very efficient WhatsApp street group where we monitor fires and make sure everyone is prepared when things start looking ominous. 

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