Assisi Drive homes narrowly miss being razed by a bush fire (updated 8 pm 5 January)

(By Bev Mortimer) Houses in upper Assisi Drive narrowly missed being razed to the ground after a big fire occurred in the bushes behind the houses this afternoon .

Flames lapping a few metres from the back garden wall of the a house belonging to Martha Adriaanzen at upper Assisi Drive at around 3.30 pm,

A fierce wind egged the fire on and two thatch roof homes were set alight. But firemen and other emegency personnel soon extinguished these fires on the roofs and saved the homes.

The fire occurred at about 2.30 pm and Kouga emergency services personnel, including the St Francis Bay fire station crew headed up by Keith Donaldson,  plus NSRI and St Francis Links volunteers with their water tanks and hosepipes, raced to the scene and battled for hours to extinguish the spreading flames..

An NSRI volunteer wets the roof of Martha Adriaanzen's house

With a strong gusting wind, the fire spread by jumping and approached within 30 metres of some houses, including that of Martha Adriaanzen.


Firemen and emergency crew get the hoses ready

NSRI and other emergency personnel  started wetting the roofs of the thatched houses with fire engine hosepipes to prevent them catching alight – a practice quickly repeated by other neighbours themselves at their homes.

Firemen straddling the back wall of Marth Adriaanzen's house, battling to put out the flames in the bushes on the other side of the wall

For a while it appeared as if the fire had been brought under control but around 4 pm the fiercer wind carried sparks which landed on Martha’s roof and then jumped the road and landed on the roof of another house. Both fires were quickly extinguished but the air was filled with black acrid smoke and it was difficult breathe at one point.

Racing to the back of Martha's house to extinguish the flames in the bush over the back garden wall

Pulling the fire engine hosepipes to the back garden wall

NSRI volunteers helped people away from the scene. Martha was escorted to neighbours in St Francis Drive as her home had to be sprayed with more water and was considered unsafe.

A hoespipe sprays water on the roof where it caught alight from jumping flames from the bush fire.

In the interim with hundreds of bystanders having gathered, the guests next door to Martha’s house at Cottage on the Hill   – a B& B owned by Rob and Anne Ealgesham that was fully booked – had to leave the establishment in a hurry and wait elsewhere in the village until it was maybe safe for them to return.

Big crowds gathered everywhere to watch the proceedings and there were many kind offers of help.

The fiercest part of the fire was finally brought under control just after 5 pm. However firemen stoically stayed around until midnight still putting out sporadic fires in the bush as the wind did not want to abate.. Martha and other homeowners in the vicinity only returned home after 10.30 pm.

It’s reported that the bushes contain a lot of rubbish and there is a road that goes behind the houses up to Sea Vista. It has been speculated that a cigarette butt ignited some rubbish.

And Martha has a Herald newspaper cutting date 1989  which described an almost identical bush fire in the vicinity of her house . It raged all day and all her belongings were moved onto the front lawn by volunteers as it was feared her house would catch alight. “In more than 20 years nothing has been done about the bush on the empty plots surrounding my house and those of my neighbours,” she says.

The roof of the house opposite that of Marth Adriaanzen in upper Assisi Drive that caught alight this afternoon. It was quickly extinguished.

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