UPDATE: Forensic investigator Dr David Klatzow lashes government over Knysna fires

A lack of action — despite timely and repeated warnings given to the authorities — was highlighted on Tuesday when an independent report was presented into the cause of the Knysna fires in June‚ which which ripped through over 300km of land in the Garden Route over two weeks.

Forensic investigator Dr David Klatzow told a news conference he had conducted an investigation into a number of fires extending from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay. He was commissioned by AfriForum.

The causes were natural but in one case‚ was deliberately set‚ he said.

Here is a summary of his findings:

“My investigations showed that an accidental fire started at Dam se Bos‚ east of Knysna. This fire spread southwards to involve the Pezula Estate‚ and went on through the wooded areas to reach Plettenberg Bay. The ferocity of this set of fires was exacerbated by the prolonged drought and the development of gale-force winds (which rendered the fire almost unstoppable).

“The western suburbs of Knysna were engulfed in a second (unrelated) fire which crossed the estuary at about 07h30 on 7 June. This fire also burned along the Brenton Estate‚ Brenton-on-Sea and Brenton-on-Lake suburbs along the western shores of the estuary (the western fire). This fire split into two fires‚ one affecting greater Knysna‚ the other affecting the western side of the estuary. These fires had their origin high in the forested area some 20km to the north-west of Knysna. The ignition source of this fire was a well-documented lightning strike. This caused a localised smouldering combustion which was fanned to significant flaming combustion on the morning of 7 June. The climatic and wind conditions drove this fire into Knysna.

“Of concern is the timely and repeated warnings given to the authorities regarding this fire. It appears that these warnings did not result in any action being taken. Prompt fire prevention methods such as water bombing and ground crews may very well have averted this western fire catastrophe.”

He believed the fires which occurred at Mossel Bay could have been started deliberately‚ for reasons currently unknown.

“The lack of police interest in this context is concerning.

“There was no sign of any of the fires to the north-east of Plettenberg Bay having been caused by deliberate human agency.”

– More to follow shortly

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