Friday, 27 December 2013

fire!

I hadn’t planned to do any cycling today, having been out every day this week, including two ‘journeys to the west’. However, I failed on ‘the hill’ on Christmas Day, breaking a successful sequence of twelve in a row, and compounded that by failing again on Boxing Day, so I wanted to rectify that as soon as possible. In any case, I needed to stock up on beer, and I prefer to cycle to the supermarket rather than walk, so as I’d taken my bike out—the operation involves taking it down two flights of stairs—I thought that I might as well take a short ride along the frontier road.

Things started well: I snapped my losing sequence on ‘the hill’ at two before heading off down Fai King Road towards the former closed area. I hadn’t gone far though before I spotted a hill fire to my left (south) and stopped to take a photo, although I was too far away to capture anything of the drama.

However, I was nearing the top of the first of three category 3 hills along this road when I suddenly came much closer to the fire—it had burned right down to the road—and this time I got a much better picture:


I continued on my way, and within a couple of hundred metres I was flagged down by a policeman, who wanted to know from whence I’d come. He appeared to think I was in grave danger and was concerned that I might turn left at the upcoming junction (Ma Tso Lung Road). I hadn’t intended to, but before I reached the junction I came to a police roadblock. They were obviously not allowing traffic through in the opposite direction, but I did wonder why there hadn’t also been a roadblock at the other side of the danger zone.

My original intention had been to turn round at the end of the road and go back the way I’d come, but recent exploration in this area meant that I did have an alternative, which was a rough cut-across to Ma Tso Lung Road. Once on this latter road, I decided to see if I could get close to the fire from that side and possibly take a few more pictures. These are the best:




I did contemplate trying to go down Liu Pok Road, but there was an ambulance parked at the junction, and fire crews going about their business, and I didn’t want to become a nuisance, so I came back via the Shum Chun River, where a helicopter was collecting water to drop on the fire:


It is unlikely that this fire was started deliberately, but it is very likely that is was the result of carelessness: a cigarette discarded from a passing car (a strong possibility given the proximity of the blaze to a road); or the burning of paper money or joss sticks next to one of the many graves that adorn the hillsides around these parts. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens far too often, and I’m sure that I’m not the only person who finds such stupidity extremely annoying.

A map of the frontier area showing the roads named above. The red ellipse marks the approximate area of the fire, and where it touches the road is the location of the first photograph.

update: 30/12/2013
I was cycling in the same area today and took the following photos, which show the extent of the destruction. The first was taken in approximately the same location as the first one above, while the second can be seen to match the vantage point from which the other photos were taken.

The fire burned right down to Liu Pok Road but didn’t cross it. The road turned out to be an effective firebreak.


10 comments:

  1. These fires can be so dangerous because you just don't know how fast they can spread and innocent people can get cut-off from seeking help quickly. Just glad that it was stopped in time. People really need to wake up to their actions because they are usually the ones that never get hurt, it's always the innocent folk.

    Wishing you and your lovely wife, a very Happy New Year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wasn’t in any danger Rum, although the roadside fire might well have been more intense 30–45 minutes before I came along. The main centre of the fire was on the other side of the hill, and here several houses were under threat. I watched from a safe distance.

      And a happy new year to you too Rum.

      Delete
  2. Blimey. That's more excitement than I think I could cope with of a morning.

    All that destruction because person or persons unknown had an attack of The Stupid. Sheesh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. Hill fires are depressingly common here Big D.

      Delete
  3. Every year, the western US states (e.g. Colorado, Wyoming) have huge devastating forest fires during the summer months. Some of it is because of drought, but I think most of it is due to carelessness. Did you end up getting your beer? Happy New Year, Dennis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The fires here are not on anything like the same scale Kris. And I did get my beer (getting my priorities right). Happy New Year to you too.

      Delete
  4. Dennis, it's incredible the destruction fire can cause in a short period of time. Also, how seemingly insignificant the cause can be. Several years ago, while I was visiting my daughter in Santa Barbara, there was a huge blaze in the hills which leveled hundreds of acres of forest. Dozens of homes were also destroyed. The smell of the smoke lasted for days. Some college students had started a small bonfire in the woods, sparks from the bonfire hit the highly flammable eucalyptus trees, and that was that. Frightening to think of the destruction caused by one small act of carelessness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fire is the destructive element Marty, although as I understand it, fire is part of the natural ecosystem of the US coastal forests. Which always makes me wonder whether people who live in forest areas are aware of the risks.

      Delete

Please leave a comment if you have time, even if you disagree with the opinions expressed in this post, although you must expect a robust defence of those opinions. If you don’t have time to comment but enjoyed the post, please click the +1 button on the right-hand sidebar (near the top of the page).