“It felt as if I was going to lose my mind. I was beside myself with worry and felt more helpless than I have ever felt in my life,” recounts resident Christine Grobbelaar after her twin sons and their nanny were trapped on Friday by the raging fire shortly before in their house at the top of Rotary Way burned down.

Standing in the ruins of their house trying to find anything that was still salvageable, Christine and husband, Francois, say both of them tried to drive through the raging flames to get to their children.

Maria Marthinus, the Grobbelaar children’s nanny, next to the swimming pool where they were trying to hide from the encroaching fire. They were rescued minutes before the whole property went up in flames.

“The flames were simply too high and the smoke too thick to drive the last 100 metres to the house. It was awful because the house was so near, yet so far and there was nothing we could do to help our children, who were surrounded by flames on all sides,” says Francois.

Luckily the brave and level-headed nanny Maria Marthinus had the presence of mind to grab the children and put them in the swimming pool with wet rags covering their heads. “I did not jump in the water as my priority was to ensure the safety of the children. I tried to keep them as calm as possible and told them everything would be fine,” relates Maria.

As the fire was closing in on the house, a local beekeeper in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley saw that the fire was close to the house and rushed up the gravel road on the farm side of the Hamilton Russell Estate in his bakkie to rescue the panicked children and Maria.

Christine says they will for ever be in the beekeeper’s debt. “He was a true hero. As he arrived at the house, the fire was rapidly closing in and shortly after they raced to safety, the house caught fire. We lost basically everything. The only piece of the house that was not destroyed was the garage – the place where one normally stores all your junk.”

Christine Grobbelaar in front of the burnt-out shell of their home on the Hamilton-Russell Estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

The Grobbelaars say they are thankful that everyone escaped unharmed. “If you think of what could have happened, the loss of furniture and belongings pale into insignificance.”

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