A BRITISH woman visiting friends in Benahavis has had her holiday turned upside down after being evacuated in the wake of a forest fire.

Retired dental hygienist Katherine Watley had joined two friends, John and Helen Winstanley,  at their holiday home in Benahavis but the trio ended up sleeping in a Fiat 500 after town authorities issued an evacuation order.

The group of friends from Chorley, near Manchester, were playing golf when they noticed smoke rising from nearby hills on Wednesday afternoon.

They didn’t expect that within 24 hours they would be sitting on fold-outs beds provided by the Red Cross at an emergency evacuation centre.

But this is where the Olive Press finds them; playing cards in a stuffy overheated gym hall stoically harnessing the Blitz spirit.

The recount how, by the time John, 59, and the two women, both 57, returned to Benahavis from the golf course, things had started to turn for the worse.

 “The sky was black and you could not see the sun,” they said.

Feeling a bit nervous about the situation, the friends packed a grab bag in case they had to get out fast before heading to a restaurant in Benahavis town for dinner. 

John decided not to drink just in case they had to flee in the car. 

Chorley Friends
The friends on the beds provided by the Red Cross.

After dinner, everything seemed normal, so the friends unpacked their bags and put their pyjamas on, and said they were getting ready for bed when they heard a knock at the door.

It was a neighbour informing them that an evacuation order had been made.

“If the neighbour had not come, we wouldn’t have known,” said John, a retired risk assessment manager at Lloyds Bank.

Two of them spent the night in the car park in their tiny rental, while one managed to find a bed in the sports centre.

By morning all three moved into the sports centre where more beds were provided.

Despite a bad night’s sleep, the group felt the town hall made the right decision on the evacuation.

They said that from the safety of the sports centre “they could see the fire travelling further and further down the hill, getting brighter and brighter.”


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