Laika Emergency: Laika Fire
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
What do we do when things don't go as planned?
To illustrate how we operate we thought we'd give you a glimpse of some of the emergencies we've encountered and dealt with. Although we are based in Somerset West, and do cover areas within about 100km thereof such as Cape Town, we always ensure that we're aware of occurrences in the areas we serve. This is one example of how our area focus and knowledge paid off.
On 18 Feb 2019, at around 13:40 one of our Laika's noticed a gigantic cloud of smoke in the air in the vicinity of one of our clients that we knew was not present, as we were performing an overnight-only sitting at their home during that time. We notified the Somerset West community manager and within 15 mins (13:53) we arrived to find out a forest fire started in extremely close vicinity to the client's home. We arrived so early, we arrived before most fire trucks arrived and the area was sealed off.
On arrival, it was clear that this fire posed an imminent threat to the surrounding homes due to its size and intensity but was being controlled by the fire department. As the firefighting efforts just started, much was unclear. Although it was a wind still sunny day, the fire grew rapidly in the forest, and was in close proximity to the neighbouring homes.
We notified the client of the situation, that the fire was present, it was being controlled and we'd update them as it progresses.
We decided to stay on scene until the fire was completely out, as any floating embers still posed risk. Watering the gardens we're not needed at this stage. We watched the fire being put out, however, there was still a very small fire left at the bottom of the valley and the helicopters left to refuel. Everyone left, thinking its over. We decided not to as it was clear the fire could re-ignite.
Surprise surprise, 15:00 arrived, and the fire was out? or was it? The small fire re-ignited but this time the wind speed picked up, and pushed the fire which was initially pushed into the valley, out of it, directly towards the homes. This time, the fire was at least 4 times the size it was before, blazing rapidly through the valley full of fresh dry summer timber. We notified all the surrounding neighbours of the fire and offered our services in case someone needed it.
The fire jumped the fire line and started to make its way into the neighbouring home's gardens. We assisted them by throwing water buckets, spraying with hoses, to hold the fire line. One of the neighbours, considering the situation was too much to bear simply left, told us where her watering hose and equipment were and gave us best wishes. If this person's garden caught alight it would have directly lead to the adjacent neighbour's, and with the fire making its way into this person's garden we took over assisting with fighting the forward crawling fire. It was at this time most neighbours just behind the fire line were watering gardens, throwing water buckets and spraying with garden hoses as the fire was crossing.
Around 18:00 the fire successfully crawled it's way away from the client and neighbouring homes to an adjacent fire line at the bottom of the valley where there was no more vegetation left. We didn't water the garden as this was not yet an option as the embers we're flying low and would have reached neighbouring homes first. Just in case, we asked the domestic present at the client to be on the lookout in the garden and call us if she sees anything.
We provided updates to the client about every hour.
Lots of bucket throwing, water sprayed, sunburn, smoke, cuts and dirt later, as the sunset at 19:22, the fire was finally extinguished. Neighbours came together, everyone thanking each other for their support, and a huge sigh of relief was present.
We notified the client which was very relieved and thankful for our support.
So, why this long story?
When things go wrong we've got procedures in place to deal with situations with the focus on safety, for you, your animals, and home, as our top priority. We liaise with you until we've solved the issue. Whether it is a burst water pipe, geyser, sick dog or injured kitty, we've got you covered.
Did we charge the client for the 9 hours spent running around like we're on fire? No. Any admin for extra situations are included in our price, and we gladly go beyond required to make sure you are relaxed, at peace, and comfortable, because the last thing you want on a holiday is any distractions.
About 2 weeks before the fire occurred, we had a possible client in the Sir Lowrey's Pass area, in an estate close the mountain forest. It was fire season and they we're concerned regarding our availability or reaction ability in case of a fire. They didn't want to book an overnight-only sitting with extended hours (ex. 16:00 to 10:00) as they were concerned if a fire broke out in those short times we were missing we would not know. So we assigned someone who lives and would be less than 400m from their location during the day and would be able to assist long before anyone else could, and we assured them all will be alright.
Their other option was an elderly lady (80+years) and who was getting too old to take off the dogs (the reason for our enquiry) who offered to sit 24/7 at a slightly discounted rate but for the full time being 24/7. As our full day rate was too much, they chose her. Although we fully understand their choice, we always do what's best for our clients. No client EVER has the same requirements and we adapt accordingly. One thing is for sure, if we had the choice of a 40+ member team that can come and protect your home, vs an elderly lady who can barely walk, the choice is very easy.
Interestingly, when the fire was extinguished there were hundreds of empty wine and beer bottles along the hill. We'd go as fast as to say 1 bottle per every 5 squared meters. Perhaps people we're throwing them out as they drove past or hikers left them behind, but the quantity was just sheer amazing, as if a truck carrying bottles tipped over and no-one bothered to pick it up.
Within the initial stages of the fire, it was as amazing to see Uva Mira Wine Farm stepping in and assisting with extinguishing the fire. @uvamiravineyard #uvamiravineyard
Client privacy is our highest regard, and although the photo and video indicate fire locations, our client's location is not evident in the content.