There is much to be said but also much to be confirmed before posting. This website will be updated as we learn more.
The Great Fire of Knysna began on June 7 2017. It was a sunny Wednesday, a beautiful day that would be destroyed by evening. The first fires began in the rural area of Elandskraal, inland and far away from town itself. Though invisible, the smell of smoke was in the air.
30km away, on the other side of town, on the way to Plettenberg Bay, trees caught alight too. The West Head, along the ocean, became ablaze. The fire jumped the ocean to land on the East Head. By evening, 26 fires were raging. Knysna was not only cut off from the world but in hell as smoke gathered in the bowl that is the centre of town surround by hills.
The wind was the biggest enemy, gusting up to 120km/h, throwing burning branches hundreds of metres. These fiery catapults flew across the Salt River Valley. Like a god playing eenie-meenie-minie mo, they landed on houses in many different places. However, those near valleys of alien pine trees faced almost certain disaster, the grooves in the earth funneling a furious wind that turned fire into a monstrous river of flame that broke on Knysna Heights.
Imagine 2000C heat, double that of a normal building fire, incinerating buildings and collapsing the soil structure of a town whose economy is based on its visitors love for nature.
It would take 2 weeks and the greatest mobilisation of firefighters in South Africa’s history to get the fire under control. Even then, out in the bush, it smoldered and flared for weeks more.
22,000 hectares and over 1000 houses in the Garden Route were destroyed, most in Knysna, many uninsured. The homeless have yet to be counted but the unemployed are estimated at 2500. Animals have been greatly affected, some species may become extinct.
The affects of the Great Fire of Knysna are ongoing. People need help. It seems certain that this will change the town’s dynamic for a long time…maybe forever.