Fires now raging underground along the Garden Route

A Knynsa resident will spend Monday afternoon digging up parts of the Noetzie nature reserve. Wendy Dewberry‚ an environmentalist‚ has not lost her mind – she is trying to prevent new fires from spreading along the Garden Route.

Dewberry explained that fires burning underground could see a potential flare up in the region.

A month ago a huge blaze cut a swathe of destruction along the Garden Route‚ destroying tourist establishments‚ affecting an estimated 2‚500 jobs and burning 846 homes in Knysna alone. Seven people perished in the fires.

“We live in a conservatory area boarded by a nature reserve on the one side and a private open space on the other side. Usually an indigenous forest doesn’t burn but because of the extreme weather conditions we are experiencing like the drought we had some fire in the forest‚” said Dewberry.

Dewberry said that she received a notice from SANParks that they will not be water bombing the area.

“We received notice from SANParks that they will no longer be water bombing the fires there unless they are a threat so any active fires underground will be left to burn out and the only thing that will help at this stage is about 15mm of rain. You can’t bomb it with helicopters because the rotaries and the wind that is created by the splash of water will open up the fire and exacerbate it. So there is pretty much nothing they can do‚” she said.

She said that SANParks‚ the municipality and some Pezula residents spent last week digging in the conservatory to curb any fires that were smouldering underground.

“I was also up there trying to dig the roots up there by the areas that were threatening the houses in the vicinity. When I dug there‚ about a metre deep the forests’ floor was black which just shows you how deep and how long the fires were burning.

“We had between 6-10mm of rain on Sunday so that has cooled down the active fires for now but we need more rain to completely extinguish the remaining fires‚” said Dewberry.

Lauren Howard‚ spokesperson for Working on Fire‚ said teams were monitoring the active fire lines along the Garden Route following flare ups on Thursday.

“The fires in Knysna‚ Plettenberg Bay and Swartberg have been contained‚ they were brought under control by Sunday evening. We have two teams consisting of 45 firefighters in total that are on standby in Knysna so if there are any potential flare ups our teams will be there to contain it‚” said Howard.

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