Conditions were near to perfect for burning during the past week. There was heavy frost on the Hill on Monday (16 July), Tuesday and Wednesday which dried the grass out and the days were calm with very little wind. We could not have asked for better conditions. On Tuesday morning (17 July) teams from SAPPI and Working On Fire Burnt the break along the boundary next to the SAPPI gum plantation. This was a very clean burn but as a result of the grass being damp from the melted frost it was not a hot burn. It will be interesting to see if there is any noticeable difference in spring. The W.O.F. team then burnt along the boundary between Lake View Rd and Sunfield Home followed by a burn next to Sunfield Home and continued next to the wattles to join the SAPPI break. This was not easy to burn as there was in places a high fuel load due to brush piles and the long grass, at times head high. As this was next to the wattles it gave cause for anxiety.
On Wednesday the 18 July, W.O.F. did the break along the Currys Post Rd , along the edge of the gums next to Eagle Ridge and the cement reservoir. They then burnt the middle block which should have been burnt last year. Due to a higher fuel load, as a result of four years growth and the accumulation of a thick layer of dry grass on the ground, the hotter fire has resulted in a very clean burn. On Thursday afternoon and again early this morning (20 July) I spent some time on the burnt area. The fresh ash makes it easy to pick up the tracks of rodents. It is always amazing to me how the mice and other rodents escape the fire by going underground and letting the fire pass. No doubt, just as the plants have adapted to surviving fire, so too have the other grassland creatures. The early burn should have avoided the possibility of ground and grass nesting birds having their nests destroyed which will please the many birders who spend time on Beacon Hill.
I’m sure that many you find, as I do, the recovery of the grassland after a fire fascinating. The first fire lilies always draw attention and soon after they have flowered the grass and numerous other plants sprout and the whole cycle starts again. I hope that we will be blessed with gentle, soaking spring rains, to get the season off to a good start.
May I, both personally and on the behalf of FOBH members, thank Mrs. Joyce Pope from the Municipality, for the time and effort which she spent in making the burn possible. Our thanks must also go to the management of Working On Fire and to their team led by Mr. Brian Mkhize, who did the burning.