Cape Town - Last week’s destructive mountain fire in the South Peninsula has left the Silvermine Nature Area devastated and, as a result it will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future.
As a result, a well-known and liked car guard who worked at the parking area for about 11 years is out of work.
Not only has infrastructure been destroyed but a number of the local baboon troops had been killed or so badly injured that they had to be put down.
This emerged from a letter written to members of the Friends of Silvermine Nature Area (Fosna) by a fellow member who went on an inspection of the area with a SANParks official.
“I have just returned from an inspection with Hennie Delport (SANParks) of the fire damage to Silvermine. Can you believe that it is still smouldering strongly in one or two areas? A full seven days after the fact,” said Sue Frew.
Frew described a scene of complete destruction, with fallen dead trees, burnt and mangled boardwalk footpaths and damaged concrete features.
“Silvermine is closed to the public and will be for the foreseeable future,” she said in the letter, which was sent to the Cape Argus.
“It is dangerous with dead trees, very uneven paths and there are no facilities. All walks in the Silvermine Nature Area have been suspended. Please contact the walks co-ordinators for alternative arrangements.
“SANParks are making an assessment of the damage to present to the insurance company. Fifteen years of dedicated growth – how does one put a cost to that?
“The beautiful trees Fosna bought and planted round the parking lot have been burnt with the exception of one yellowwood. Most of the boardwalk around the reservoir has been partially destroyed or destroyed completely.
“What planks are left are lying at strange angles and there are nails protruding from the oddest places. The cement bridge connecting the path to the reservoir wall has cracked. The boardwalk up the river walk, too, has been gutted. Apparently there was a little bridge built near the waterfall. That, too, is no more. The toilets have been spared but the water tank and pipes (partially sponsored by Fosna) have melted, thus the toilets have no water.”
Frew reported that two tents in the tented camp had been completely gutted and a section of the boardwalk also destroyed.
“The fence looks like it has been chewed in places by an angry beast with dirty black teeth.”
She said on the other side of the valley at Gate 2 the boardwalks in Spes Bona Forest and Echo Valley had been gutted.
“Sadly a number of baboons from the Tokai troop were killed or badly burnt and have had to be euthanised. And who knows the number of little animals who were unable to escape.
“Another angle to this is that Henry Josephs, the car guard at the reservoir parking, is now without a job. He has been working there for about 11 years and has become a familiar face.
“He has been entrusted with car keys and possessions while folks have gone swimming. He has learnt a lot about the fauna and flora to pass on to visitors. So he was (a) special feature in the parking area.”
But all was not doom and gloom.
“While the picture is bleak there are already signs of fresh green bits,” Frew said. “We look forward to new growth of the fynbos and the emergence of the Haemanthus sanguineus and the Cyrtanthus ventricosus. The Cyrtanthus ventricosus flowers only after a fire and is beautiful to see.”
* It took several hours, a crew of more than 100 firefighters and three helicopters to put out a raging fire at the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve between Stellenbosch and Somerset West on Tuesday.
The fire broke out at about 2pm on Monday and destroyed 700 hectares of vegetation. It was put out at about 5pm on Tuesday.
CapeNature spokesman Justin Lawrence said the fire was contained before it spread to the Helderberg basin.