Karatara Fires


So here we are… Fires again. Last year our neighbourhood was one of the safest places to be while fire raged all over the Eden District, destroying nearly 2000 buildings. Many friends lost their homes. This year it looked to be our turn. Maybe.

At first the fire was well away from us – out on the other side of Karatara. For several days we’ve been breathing smoke, lungs feeling like you’ve smoked a whole pack of cigarettes, eyes gritty and smarting all the time, and that unnerving red glow all around the night sky, but no real hazard to us.

Then the wind came up. Yesterday the fire reached Dripkelders – a favourite swimming hole in the Homtini River, and just a couple of thousand metres away from us – a hard, gusty and capricious 45km/h wind driving the fire directly at Bibbey’s Hoek. We were advised to evacuate.

We were quite well prepared… a pack with spare clothes, some bedding, the Doggies and their food bowls, and my backup flash-stick, external disk, 2FA tokens and crypto pass-phrase backups. The downside of being your own bank. Off we went to the rendezvous point where we sat around for several hours, anxiously watching the smoke. The gods must love Bibbey’s Hoek, though. Just after we left, the wind changed, driving the fire northward rather than east and toward our houses. We were told we could return to our home but to “remain on high alert throughout the night” in case the wind decided to change again. The fire burned up somewhere behind Stinkwood Ridge rather than through our smallholdings.

I don’t have a lot to tell about the fires themselves… I’m sure the media and twitterati will cover events a whole lot better than I can. Last night was still extremely smokey, and the house still stinks, a coating of ash-dust over everything: pillows, hair, furniture and gadgets. We’re not working too hard to clean up just yet – there’s still a lot of smoke about and we won’t be entirely out of all danger for another day or two despite a small spattering of rain in the night (1mm) that has helped enormously to reduce the blaze and slow its progress. But I think the worst has passed.

We got off lightly. Again! But spare a thought for those who have lost homes and loved ones. Spare a thought for the loss of trees and bushes, bees and snakes in the indigenous forest. I wonder what the Elephant thought of it all. (Personally I could spare something between zero and fuck-all cares about the loss of plantations. They’re part of the problem. Don’t @ me.)

Latest update (17h33): There’s still significant fire at Homtini. If the wind should pick up from the West, we may yet be in the firepath. The forecast says winds from the SW shifting to W tomorrow morning, but only 10km/h. But let’s remember that’s only a forecast, a balance of probabilities and not a prediction. We’ll remain alert tonight, I guess.