Shortly after I took the photos of yesterday's veldfire which swept through our smallholding, the wind changed direction and the fire hurtled up the rest of the plot, coming close to the pallisade fencing around the house. Solly's chickens, who were just outside the wall and directly in the path of the flames, all charged through the gate and into my back-yard, looking confused at all the smoke and flames billowing around. This is their first season on the plot and they've never seen a fire before.
Besides being a threat to life and home, these wild fires are devastating to the wildlife. Lizards, Hedgehogs, Tortoises, hares (usually fast enough to escape), ground-nesting birds and other small wildlife are all at risk when these fires race along, driven by strong winds.
But these fires, when they are a natural occurrence and not started by someone carelessly tossing down a cigarette, also benefit nature. Some of our Aloes will not flower until they've been burnt by our winter fires. Another benefit of these fires is all the crispy tit-bits it leaves in its wake. Later that afternoon we had dozens of Egrets, Herons and Plovers snacking on the blackened landscape. Even the Fiscal Shrike was joining in the feast.
Every April we cut the grass on our smallholding and make fire-breaks to minimise the damage and the grass being short certainly helps, but every year we still have to be vigilant and keep an eye open for these fires, which can come from any direction.