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.