GARDEN ROUTE BIOSPHERE DECLARED

The Garden Route area, from George and extending to the Port Elizabeth municipal boundary, was granted formal recognition as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO last week on Wednesday 14th June in Paris. 

This decision is the result of many years of work by a group of dedicated people on the Garden Route, with the support of SANParks, CapeNature, Eastern Cape Economic Development, Environmental Affairs & Tourism and Provincial and National Departments of Environmental Affairs.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has welcomed the approval of the Garden Route as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.  Her Department stated in its acceptance speech, “It is indeed a great feeling for South Africa today, as we continue on a journey of strengthening our conservation efforts.”  Referring to the recent and tragic fires that have engulfed the Garden Route, the speaker continued, “What has been illuminated from these ashes, is the remarkable sense of community and compassion for fellow being in the Garden Route as a whole.”

Unesco members voted in favour of the inclusion of the Garden Route as a Biosphere reserve at a meeting in Paris, France, on 14 June 2017.

“The positive response to the application to declare the Garden Route a biosphere reserve is most encouraging, not just for us, as a country, but also for the people of the region,”  said Minister Molewa.

“The Garden Route, one of South Africa’s prime tourism regions, is an area rich in terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems where conservation of the rich biodiverse region is ably reconciled with sustainable use practices,”  the Minister added.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) states that biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognised.  The Garden Route Biosphere Reserve (GRBR) is the ninth such reserve to be declared in South Africa.

The Garden Route Biosphere Reserve is located within the Cape Floristic biodiversity hotspot region along the southern coast of part of the country. With a total area of 698,363ha (212,375 ha core, 288,032 ha buffer, 197,956 ha transition) and a population of 450,624 people. The area includes the Tsitsikamma, Goukamma and Robberg Marine protected areas, Wilderness Lake Ramsar site, Garden Route National Park and two components of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage site: the Nelson Bay Cave and the Langkloof Valley.

The municipalities included in the Biosphere Reserve are Eden and Sarah Baartman District municipalities as well as George, Knysna, Bitou, Kouga, and Koukamma local municipalities. All of these municipalities have been consulted in the establishment process.

Linked to the conservation related activities, the development objectives of the GRBR are to promote growth in employment, training and entrepreneurial endeavours, contribute to poverty alleviation and the development of sustainable livelihood options for disadvantaged communities, and to encourage sustainable biodiversity-based businesses and their contribution to the green economy on the Garden Route.

Several development opportunities have arisen from the desire to conserve the natural environment within the GRBR.  Innovative solutions that support the environment are encouraged by UNESCO MAB and various eco-tourism, green economy, educational and exciting  research programmes are planned.

The clearing of alien vegetation has substantial socio-economic benefits for the region in the form of several government-sponsored and endorsed initiatives such as Working for Water, Working for Wetlands, and Working on Fire.  These initiatives provide employment and facilitate skills development and the exchange of ideas between the different stakeholder groups and a key objective linked to community development is to develop small business opportunities linked to the use of by-product from alien plant management initiatives. For example, the vegetation cleared can be made available for making furniture, crafting, making charcoal, sold as fire wood.

The official launch of the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve will take place later in the year.

KNYSNA WILL RISE AGAIN – STRONGER THAN BEFORE

MEDIA RELEASE FROM KNYSNA MAYOR ELEANORE BOUW-SPIES

 

The Knysna Municipality has been declared a fire disaster following the devastating fires that started on 7 June.

 

The majority of the Knysna Disaster Relief Fund will be focused on providing humanitarian assistance to residents of the Knysna fire and towards reconstruction efforts that will benefit all the communities of Greater Knysna.

 

This was resolved during today’s special meeting of the Knysna Council.

 

Mayor of Knysna, Eleanore Bouw-Spies said: “Thousands of residents have been affected by these devastating fires that ravaged our town. Greater Knysna has received an unprecedented outpouring of support from residents across South Africa and abroad, and have begun to rebuild our town. Donations received will be used toward this.

 

“Today we put structures in place to ensure the Knysna disaster fund is managed against clear objectives, with transparency and strict accountability.”

 

The remaining set objectives include: trauma counselling, clean-up initiatives, alleviating environmental concerns and rehabilitating vegetation, business- and economic development support.

 

Humanitarian Assistance

 

Hundreds of people have been displaced due to the loss of their homes and possessions. Donations of blankets, food, toiletries and clothing have met much of the initial requirements. However, rehousing takes time and there will be a need to provide medical care, shelter, mattresses, household utensils, water and numerous other items for some period of time to enable people to get back on their feet. There will also be a need to assess the damage to farming, livestock, wildlife and household pets.

 

 

Infrastructure

 

Knysna is a town with a growing residential population and a thriving tourism sector. The fire seriously damaged infrastructure affecting the provision of electricity, water and sewage. It also showed how dangerous the existing road system is with the exits from Knysna in all directions closed due to the ferocious fires. The replacement and upgrading of existing infrastructure will receive priority attention, enabling reliable power, water provision, storage and usage, better waste management, modern communication highways and improved road, rail and water transport.

 

Trauma Counselling and Support

 

The scale of the devastation, and its impact on people, many of whom are young children or elderly, has affected the whole town. Expert counselling will be required, in varying degrees, for those directly affected by tragic loss as well as those who witnessed the ravages of the fire. The ability for Knysna to rebuild the town as a tourist destination with a thriving community will depend on how well those living in the town overcome their shared experience and trauma.

 

Environmental management

 

Among the reasons that the fire was so devastating was because of the drought, shortage of water, and proliferation of alien vegetation particularly wattle and eucalyptus. Fires generally result in an increased growth spurt of these invasive species, laying the seeds for an even more devastating fire in the future.

 

Programmes must be put in place to continuously remove and limit the new growth of alien vegetation. At the same time, the hillsides and dunes that have been laid bare by the fires need to be rehabilitated as a matter of urgency. Should there be heavy rainfall, mud slides may be a reality. Consequent silting can damage the Knysna River Estuary and the lagoon with long term effects on the water and eco-system.

 

Business Support

 

Many unique small and medium sized businesses have been devastated by the fires, particularly timber mills and furniture factories that have made their name using indigenous woods. The fund will be utilised to provide support of varying kinds to assist small businesses to restart, or new ventures to come into being. This will provide the means for Knysna to regenerate its unique business opportunities and the tourism sector.

 

Reconstruction

 

All of the above outlines what should form part of the reconstruction of Knysna in the interests of all its communities. It should enable the Knysna Municipality to develop a comprehensive reconstruction and development plan that will enable growth and prosperity in the years ahead.

 

Employment

 

The Fund, in giving effect to the framework of support outlined above, needs to focus on local employment and the use, as far as possible, of local skills such as builders, plumbers, electricians, suppliers, professional skills and expertise. We will seize the opportunity to upgrade local skills and to grow industrial and artisan expertise in our town.

 

The Knysna Disaster Relief Fund has been set up as a separate bank account, in line with the Municipal Finance Management Act. Strict processes have been put in place in respect of expenditure against the fund. A working committee which includes external players from a major bank and accounting firm, is in the process of being established to oversee the fund. The Working Group will submit regular reports to Council in respect of the fund. These details will also be made publically available, and independently audited.

 

Two further announcements were made today. As Knysna residents have suffered through a devastating event, with many in shock, we have set up a trauma counselling centre at the Knysna library, where residents can receive emotional support.

 

We have also brought an asbestos specialist on board who will work in conjunction with Eden District Health Services to advise on the proper disposal of asbestos sheeting.

 

Mayor Bouw-Spies concluded: “Knysna has suffered many jobs losses as a result of these fires. Around 2 500 jobs have been affected and in Knysna’s rebuild effort, we want local residents to benefit from the jobs created.

 

“In the short term, we need clean up jobs, and in the long term, we need the full range of artisans including plumbers, electricians, builders and bricklayers. We are working across all spheres of government on a plan to upskill our people to take up new opportunities.

 

“Knysna will rise, and we will rise stronger than ever before.”

SAFE AT LAST

(Picture:- the back-burn of Saturday evening, as seen from the Sedgefield water reservoir. Taken by Conrad Ball)

The latest report received from the Incident Management Team for the Knysna fires is that the blazes have been contained and are under control.

With flare ups still occurring in many areas, the collective fire- fighting crew are still on alert, closely monitoring the situation and moving in teams to extinguish flames where necessary.

At time of going to press there was still visible fire on the top of the Goukamma Reserve dunes, but these flare-ups were reportedly being watched carefully, and not considered threatening to Sedgefield.

In the words of Fire Chief Clinton Manuel at 5.30pm Tuesday. “We pretty much have got this fire contained and under control.”

The cause of the disastrous blaze, reportedly the biggest fire in this area since 1869, is still being investigated, but police have pointed out that no evidence of arson has come to the fore – despite what has been posted on social media.

The results have been tragic, with the death of seven people: Tony Johnstone (30) of Elandskraal, his wife Madré (28) and their three year old son Michael; Enala Manda (22) of Welbedacht and her 4 year old daughter Catherine Matope; Bradley Richardson (24), a volunteer fire fighter with the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association; and John Blaauw (63) of Hornlee.

There has also been huge loss of property. Whilst thus far it has not been possible for the authorities to assess the full cost of the disaster, with an estimated 440 homes and businesses destroyed, as well as farms, plantations, vehicles, personal belongings and town infra-structure, there is no doubt it is well into the billions.

The efforts in fighting the multiple blazes burning in so many different areas have been admirable. With Knysna Fire Chief Clinton Manuel heading up the largest Incident Management Team ever assembled in South Africa (this is the first time any incident has reached Type 1 status), and no less than 1100 firefighters, pilots and emergency services crew members from all over South Africa fighting around the clock, it is terrifying to even consider what the results would have been without the support.

Knysna was declared a ‘Local Disaster Area’ on Friday 9 June, thus giving local government access to funding for the rebuilding of the town.

OFFICIAL FIRE UPDATE

KNYSNA FIRE AS OF SUNDAY  11/6 AFTERNOON

(Issued by Knysna Municipality)

FIRE STATUS

The fires that have been holding Greater Knysna hostage for the past six days are currently contained.

Reinard Gildenhuys, Acting Incident Commander for Knysna said that the team feels confident that “today is the day,” that the Knysna fires will be brought under control and finally doused. He added that the backburn conducted to the East of Sedgefield during the night went according to plan and to the North towards the South of the N2 should have sorted out many of the dangers.

Knysna Executive Mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies said that Greater Knysna is extremely grateful to have a total of 1 106 firefighters and logistic personnel assisting with this operation. “We can’t express our gratitude enough towards these men and women who put their lives at risk, keeping others safe.” This team remains on the ground, monitoring the entire area, attending to occasional flare-ups.

The fires destroyed a further six structures on Saturday, however, Gildenhuys said that the team is not anticipating any further major flare-ups as the winds are dying down and remain mostly in a Westerly direction. Sadly there is only a 20 percent chance of rain predicted for tomorrow.  Bearing this in mind, the Municipality asks all residents to remain vigilant.

The following areas have been declared safe by the Incident Commander:

TOWN SECTOR:

Upper Old Place
Green Pastures
The Epilepsy Centre
Provincial Hospital Hostel
Hospital Hill (Nissan)

KARATARA SECTOR

Leeuwenbosch
Rheenendal

BELVIDERE SECTOR

Belvidere
Belvidere Heights

CONCORDIA SECTOR

Jood se Kamp
Greenfields
White Location
Rhobololo

PEZULA SECTOR

Fisherhaven
Pezula (Hotel)
The Heads
Hunter’s Home
Life Hospital

The following areas are NOT yet safe to return to and residents and onlookers must not return to these under any circumstances:

TOWN SECTOR

Narnia
Paradise
Blaricum Heights
Phantom Village
Templeman Road
Eastford
Upper Town
Knysna Heights
Welbedacht

KARATARA SECTOR

Fairview
Gansvlei

BELVIDERE SECTOR

Brenton-on-Sea
Buffalo Bay

PEZULA SECTOR

Fernwood.

WATER & ELECTRICITY STATUS

There has been extensive damage to the power supply and water infrastructure during the fires. This has created extra pressure on an already strained system.

There are areas where residents remain without water and/or electricity. The Knysna Municipality and Eskom are working feverously to get these services restored as soon as possible. The Municipality thanks residents for their continued understanding and asks residents to be mindful that the technical team are doing everything in their power to get to the numerous outages.

WATER

Currently, the status of the water supply is listed below. As the infrastructure is still under pressure and further issues are being identified, the status of water supply is subject to change with unforeseeable outages possible in future.

Knysna CBD water supply has now been stabilised
Belvidere and Brenton-on-Lake are beginning to stabilise
Brenton-on-Sea is without water and extensive damage to the infrastructure means that it will be a while before water is restored.
Simola is without water
Edameni has been restored
White location has been restored
Sparrebosch has been restored

ELECTRICITY

Currently, the Knysna Municipality cannot confirm when the power to affected areas will be restored. As with the water supply, infrastructure is under pressure and additional outages should be anticipated.

The following areas are currently without power.

Kanonkop
Lauren Hill
Knysna Hollow (area completely burned down)
Welbedacht Estate
Eastford Ridge
Eastford Downs
Green Pastures
A section of White Location
Kruisfontein.

FAKE NEWS

Unfortunately, harmful rumours and false stories have been propagated and are creating panic amongst already traumatised residents. The Municipality’s Communication Department is spending valuable time trying to quell sensationalist stories in the media and on social media. For accurate updates, follow the Knysna Municipality communications channels:

Website: knysna.gov.za
Knysna Municipality Facebook Page
@KnysnaMuni on Twitter
Downloading the Municipality app knysna.comunity.me (note only one ‘n’)

It is recommended that people question the source of the information that they are receiving and use their discretion when it comes to accepting everything they read as truth.

SEDGE OUT OF DANGER

Whilst the fall-out from the devastating fires in Greater Knysna will no doubt be felt for months, if not years, it seems that as of this morning residents are out of imminent danger.  
Sedgefield village has been left more or less intact, though wildfires have wreaked destructive havoc in surrounding farming and smallholding communities of Elandskraal, Ruigtevlei, Fairview and surrounds. There are still small patches smoldering in the forests and on the other side of the dune, but at the time of writing this the huge blazes have for the most part been extinguished or are at least under control. People have returned to their smoky homes – most of them still standing,  a lot of them not.
On Saturday 10 June villagers felt and saw that the blaze much closer to home. Flames and plumes of thick smoke on the horizon made it hard to understand the ‘Don’t Panic’ message that was being regularly broadcast by the fire monitoring team.
Early in the day the N2 was closed on the Eastern side of town, to allow free access for emergency vehicles and people to evacuate the area around Gansvlei – including the Riverdeck and Mini Magic horses. The road closure was also to allow the helicopters to go about the business of water bombing the blazes that were heading towards Buffalo Bay from the Northern side. This safety measure ensured that many remained safely ensconced in their homes, whilst others flocked to volunteer at the Town Hall where truckload after truckload of water, clothing, and food from all over the country were being delivered for those who had been evacuated, and food parcels and hot meals prepared for firefighters.

At one stage there was a call for Sedgefielders to standby and be ready for possible evacuation, and residents numbly packed their ‘pick up and go’ bags, but fortunately, the ‘stand down’ message followed minutes later.  Despite the bombardment of hype and mistruth on social media, panic did not set in, though fear and stress were at almost unbearable levels. Perhaps with 800 firefighters from all over the country descending on Knysna to tackle the blaze, as well as six fire-bombing helicopters, residents knew that all that could be done was being done.

But as night fell the size and brightness of the flames brought on renewed fear. Massive, threatening blazes were visible on the Eastern side of town and it seemed the village may well soon be engulfed.

Then once again the monitoring team issued a calming broadcast that all was under control and that the fire team had commenced ‘back burning’ – a means by which they could fight fire with fire by burning the vegetation on the dune of the Goukamma Reserve, so that the controlled fire would meet the larger fire halfway – and leave nothing for it to consume.   The wind was blowing in the right direction and the firemen and support crews admirably performed this technical challenge with great success.

Sedgefield communities were kept informed by any means necessary, Whatsapp messages, voicenotes  facebook posts notifications were sent by those in the know to those who were in the dark.

As the sun rose on Sunday 11 June, the town’s people woke up to far less smoke, and no flames on the horizon. Even after days of fetching, carrying, receiving and distributing, the volunteers (and more) once again pitched up at the Town Hall and other centres, offering their hands and feet to keep up the incredible work. Anything to make the broken lives of those affected by the fire a little better.

“The worst is over and now the hard work starts. Sedgefarians are rising in the way that they do best. There are so many helpers, so many hearts, hands and homes that are open to do what needs to be done,” said one volunteer.
The joint operations and control centres for Sedgefield are the Municipal Town Hall and the ‘Old African Affair Building’ on the Northern side of the N2 up the road from Montecellos. If you are displaced and need anything – from a warm plate of food to a pet bed – everything is there and there are people to help too. Please don’t hesitate to ask any of the co-ordinators on site.
Well done Sedgefield! Let’s move forward (slowly), and put this National Disaster behind us.
,

KNYSNA DECLARED DISASTER AREA BY COUNCIL

(Pictured above:- Acting Municipal Manager Johnny Diuglas with Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies)

In a special Council Meeting held this afternoon at Knysna Council Chambers, Executive Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies tabled a motion to declare Knysna a ‘Local Disaster Area’, receiving full support from all the other councilors. This as flare-ups of the widespread fire are being reported in Belvidere, Brenton and Elandskraal due to increasing wind speed. 

In terms of section 55.1 of the Disaster Management Act, this declaration will give the municipality access to national, regional and local government funding reserved for such emergency situations, thus making them better-resourced to not only continue the ongoing disaster management but also mop up and rebuilding operations that will need to be faced in the near future.

At a media briefing before the meeting a visibly tired but determined Bouw-Spies pointed out that whilst the blaze had seemingly been under control for most of today, the wind had picked up again and reports of flare-ups were coming in, keeping the huge numbers of fire crew and the helicopter pilots busy. She asked that people avoid returning to evacuated areas as there was no saying if, when and where the fires could rage out of control again, and that ‘bombing’ the fires from the water-carrying choppers is not possible if people have moved back into the danger areas.

The Acting Municipal Manager Johnny Douglas said that firefighters had been arriving in busloads from all over South Africa to assist fighting the fires, and that they were starting to deploy members of the ‘Working On Fire’ crew to other areas.

Also at the briefing, SAPS Spokesman Captain Malcolm Poje reported that there had been misinformation doing the rounds regarding people being caught starting the fires.  He said all of these concocted rumours were unfounded and no cases of arson had been opened. Asked about ‘looting’ the Captain said seven people had been arrested for being in possession of stolen property, some of the property later being found to have been stolen from a fire-affected home in Brenton.  Answering a question about the availability of a ‘Missing Persons’ list of people displaced by the fires, he said that there had only been one report of a missing person, a 70 year old Sedgefield lady, who had been found at her friend’s home a few hours later.

Meanwhile the water situation in Knysna has become critical with some areas having no water at all, due to there being no power at a few of the pump stations. Water collection points have been set up in the area where residents affected may collect 400 litres per day.

 

TOURISM LIVES AGAIN

(Picture:- Staff and board members of Knysna and Partners celebrate the announcement outside Knysna Municipal Chambers)

There were loud cheers from the gallery at the council meeting held on Friday 26 May, when Knysna Executive Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies announced council’s resolution to sign a new Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Knysna and Partners (formerly Knysna Tourism), one which ensures the future of the entity and its staff for at least the next three years. The timing of this resolution has been cut exceptionally close as the existing agreement, and indeed contracts with Tourism staff, is set to expire at the end of this month.

Apart from a small revenue generated by membership fees and commissions, Knysna and Partners is reliant on the sizeable grant from Knysna Municipality to carry out its mandate of promoting the area as a tourism destination. But this year the future of local tourism, Knysna and Sedgefield’s biggest income earner, has hung in the balance as Council has explored proposals of either using other service providers or bringing the  marketing of Greater Knysna in-house. As far as Sedgefield is concerned, this could have meant the closing down of the local tourism office, which many locals were adamant should not happen.

Whilst proposing the resolution, Mayor Bouw-Spies did point out that it would certainly not be ‘business as usual’ as far as Tourism is concerned, and that a new SLA with Knysna and Partners would replace the existing agreement which had been in place for some years now. All but one councillor (Independent  Councillor Velile Waxa) voted for the approval of the resolution, with COPE Councillor Ricky van Aswegen suggesting a proviso that money from the proposed 4 million Rand annual budget be earmarked for tourism development in the previously disadvantaged communities.

Details of the new SLA will be finalised over the next few weeks.

More details in next week’s edition of The EDGE.

MOTHER’S DAY TRAGEDY

Picture – Catherine Marais stands next to the burnt out shell of her mother’s home.

(Information compiled by Noel Solomons)

Annette Magdalena Marais, the sixty five year old mother of Catherine and grandmother of Christopher ‘Seuntjie’, lost her life when her RDP home on the cul de sac off Luthango Street was engulfed in flames between 3.30 and 4am on Mother’s Day morning. Whilst the authorities are still investigating what ignited the fire, the family believe that her stove being left on could have been the cause.

According to Annette’s adult grandson Christopher ‘Seuntjie’ Marais, who had been staying with her at the time, he had woken up in the early hours of the morning of Sunday 14 May to go to the toilet, and when he walked past the stove he saw that it had been left on. He asked his grandmother why, and she instructed him to leave it on as she wanted to light a cigarette and return to the warmth of her bed, so he proceeded out to the ‘out house’ situated a short way away from the home.

Marais said he thinks he was away for about 15 minutes, and on returning realised that something was terribly wrong. Opening the front door he found that a fire had started inside the small home, and was already engulfing the main room. After shouting for his grandmother he tried going further in, but the flames were already too fierce.

Hearing his shouting, neighbours came rushing over to help, but there was little they could do. Someone tried connecting a hosepipe at a nearby property to try and spray the blaze – but this didn’t help as the water pressure was too weak. A man tried rushing in wrapped in a wet blanket to see if he could rescue Annette, but even then the heat was just too intense.

The fire department’s vehicle also came but the fire had been so horribly fierce that the everything had been burned within minutes, and there was nothing they could do to save the elderly occupant.

Catherine, Annette’s only child, who lives in the same cul de sac, diagonally opposite her mother’s home, says that someone woke her at about 03.40am. Rushing out she was horror stricken to see the fire and smoke pouring out from the RDP house, but she too could do nothing but stand and watch in horror. She says that other than the fire there was no noise coming from inside the house, so she hopes her mother didn’t suffer, but passed away from inhaling the smoke.

She is still reeling from the shock of losing her mother in such a tragic way. “I had seen her just a few hours earlier in the afternoon,” she recalls, “We were sitting right here on the side of the road, in the sun, and she came out and sat with us for a while.”

ECOLOGICAL BURN IN BRENTON

(Press release issued by SANParks)

It’s official!

The planned ecological burn which was postponed last year is now burning. The steering committee concerned about the ecological wellbeing of the area made a decision guided by the weather to burn on  Monday, the 15th May 2017. Approximately 71 hectares on the Southern slopes along the Brenton-on-sea Road are set to burn which includes Portions 39 and 40 of the Uitzigt Farm.

According to Dirk Smit of the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, the burn is a collective effort from all stakeholders because 85% of the fynbos scheduled to burn has not burnt in the last 30 years. Partners include Southern Cape Fire Protection Association (FPA), SANParks, Knysna Municipal Fire Services, Working on Fire, Eden District Fire Services – Deputy CFO, PG Bison, CapeNature, Knysna Municipality – Traffic Control and the landowners.’

All are adamant to restore Knysna Sand Fynbos and to provide habitat for species dependent on this ecosystem over the medium to long term. Portions 39 and 40 of Farm Uitzigt 216 are ideally located spatially and are relatively free from alien vegetation thus providing an excellent opportunity to benefit conservation for such a critically endangered ecosystem.

Maretha Alant, Environmental Planner of the Garden Route National Park adds that many fynbos species only recruit after a fire as fire stimulates seed release and germination. ‘In a landscape where fire is kept indefinitely, fynbos often reverts to thicket vegetation or forest. Without fire, fynbos will lose its true character and species,’ she says.

The remaining natural Knysna Sand Fynbos is approximately 1 478 ha (9.6% of the original extent) and falls short of the conservation target of 3 531 hectares.

Chief Fire Officer for Knysna, Clint Manuel, says ‘The actual exercise will be implemented by the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association (FPA). It will be done in phases due to the large hectares of land up for burning. There is also predicted follow-up rain this week.’  Fire close to an urban area is risky business, however there are trade-offs that have to happen to preserve a system that has not had fire for so long.

Fynbos is a vegetation type which is adapted to, and more so, dependent on fire.   Fynbos fires should occur at intervals of 10 to 30 years.  Natural fires typically occur during warm and dry weather conditions which result in high intensity fires, which is desirable from an ecological point of view.

Controlled burns such as the planned one, will help minimize the risk of uncontrolled, accidental wildfires. The Lower fuel load after the burn is said to result in lower fire risk for a few years.

RACING CARS BURN ON N2

8/05/2017:- At least five racing cars from this weekend’s Simola Hill Climb were burned beyond recognition on a trailer travelling on the N2 between Knysna and Sedgefield . Eyewitnesses say the fire started sometime before 11am as the vehicle carrier was approaching  the Groenvlei Lake. The vehicle carrier parked on the side of the busy highway and drivers of other vehicles watched in amazement as millions of Rands worth of racing technology went up in smoke.

A statement from the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb reads as follows.

Expensive and irreplaceable race cars damaged in fire while in transit 

KNYSNA, South Africa, 8 May 2017 – Following reports of a vehicle transporter catching fire on the N2 near George this morning, the organisers of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb can confirm that the truck was carrying several vehicles that had competed in the Knysna-based motorsport event over the weekend.

There are no reports of anyone being injured in the incident, with one of the vehicles reportedly having caught fire while in transit, resulting in the fire spreading rapidly and causing extensive damage to the vehicles. The fire has since been extinguished.

Ian Shrosbree, managing director of Knysna Speed Festival and organiser and founder of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, expressed his dismay and distress after hearing of the incident.

“After the resounding success of the last three days where each of the participating vehicles becomes part of the essence of the competition – this disaster impacts on us all. The loss of complete vehicles (some of them one-of-a-kind and literally irreplaceable) and the damage to others cannot be quantified.

“It is much, much more than just the value of what has gone up in flames.”

The cause of the fire is unclear at this stage, but will be investigated. The value of the affected vehicles has not yet been determined.

Picture by Henri Terblanche.