Fi­re re­ports rai­se mo­re que­s­ti­ons

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Voorblad - S­te­fan Goo­sen s­te­fan@grou­pe­di­tors.co.za

The re­le­a­se of A­friForum’s in­de­pen­dent re­port on the cau­se and o­ri­gin of the 7 Ju­ne fires has cau­sed ma­ny re­si­dents of Knys­na, and in­te­rested par­ties from el­se­w­he­re, to que­s­ti­on the of­fi­ci­al cau­se and o­ri­gin of the fires as re­le­a­sed by the Knys­na mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty.

In short, fi­re chief C­lin­ton Ma­nu­el found in his re­port that the fi­re was cau­sed by hu­man acti­vi­ty, w­hen flam­ma­ble ma­te­ri­al was in­tro­du­ced in­to the E­lands­kraal a­rea - pi­ne co­nes we­re found w­he­re no pi­ne trees grew and stac­ked fu­el such as planks we­re found ne­ar­by. He sta­ted that we­at­her con­di­ti­ons on the day fu­el­led t­his fi­re al­ong.

In con­trast, the A­friForum re­port – com­pi­led by fo­ren­sic s­cien­tist Dr Da­vid Klat­zow – sta­tes that a lig­ht­ning stri­ke in the E­lands­kraal a­rea mont­hs be­fo­re cau­sed un­der­ground smoul­de­ring which, fu­el­led by we­at­her con­di­ti­ons on the day, fla­red in­to a full-blo­wn bla­ze. T­his o­pi­ni­on is shared by se­ver­al ot­her pe­op­le, no­ta­bly the en­gi­neer and s­cien­tist Dr Wal­la­ce Vos­loo.

Klat­zow said in his re­port, “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.”

In re­spon­se to A­friForum’s re­port, Knys­na mu­ni­ci­pal ma­na­ger Kam C­het­ty said it is un­for­tu­na­te that Dr Klat­zow’s re­port ap­por­ti­ons bla­me to the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty. “The re­port is on­e­si­ded. Our in­ves­ti­ga­ti­on ex­a­mi­nes a num­ber of pro­ba­bi­li­ties in­clu­ding the pos­si­bi­li­ty of lig­ht­ning stri­kes in ma­king our con­clu­si­on,” C­het­ty said.

“It is of gre­at con­cern that Klat­zow is bla­ming Knys­na mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty for the fi­re. Our re­port is not to re­fu­te smoul­der (sic) or ap­por­ti­on bla­me, but ba­sed on e­vi­den­ce on the ground.”

S­cien­ti­fic met­ho­do­lo­gy

He ex­plai­ned that the mu­ni­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­ti­on was ba­sed on s­cien­ti­fic met­ho­do­lo­gy which in­clu­ded a tho­rough a­na­ly­sis of a­e­ri­al and ground e­vi­den­ce and ey­e­wit­ness ac­counts. “Our in­ves­ti­ga­ti­on ex­a­mi­ned burn pat­terns and in the con­text of chan­ging we­at­her that pre­vai­led du­ring the fi­re. Ba­sed on the ex­a­mi­na­ti­on of all the e­vi­den­ce it re­mains our fin­ding that the fi­re of Ju­ne 7 was pri­ma­ri­ly cau­sed by hu­man acti­vi­ty in E­lands­kraal.”

Reint Dy­ke­ma of A­friForum said it is im­por­tant to no­te that the­re are cur­rent­ly four re­ports: the mu­ni­ci­pal re­port, the A­friForum re­port, a re­port being com­pi­led by Vul­can Wild­fi­re Ma­na­ge­ment for the We­stern Ca­pe go­vern­ment, and en­gi­neer Dr Wal­la­ce Vos­loo’s re­port which fo­cu­ses spe­ci­fi­cal­ly on the E­lands­kraal fi­re.

Dy­ke­ma said that Klat­zow had dis­cus­sed the E­lands­kraal fires with Vos­loo, and af­ter a­na­ly­sing and agreeing with the da­ta, Klat­zow u­sed it in his re­port for A­friForum.

No on-si­te vi­sit

It ap­pears that Klat­zow ne­ver vi­si­ted the a­rea w­he­re the fi­re star­ted. Ac­cor­ding to Dy­ke­ma, Klat­zow wa­t­ched dro­ne foota­ge ta­ken on 22 Ju­ne and con­si­de­red ot­her vi­de­os and p­ho­tos that we­re ta­ken in the a­rea w­he­re the fi­re star­ted.

Klat­zow’s o­pi­ni­on is that the fi­re star­ted in the a­rea w­he­re lig­hting had struck and smoul­de­ring con­ti­nu­ed for weeks.

Re­gar­ding C­het­ty’s sta­te­ment a­bout Klat­zow bla­ming the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty, Klat­zow said he re­cei­ved in­structi­on to find the cau­se or cau­ses of the va­ri­ous fires, and be­cau­se the­re are cur­rent­ly so ma­ny dif­fe­rent in­ter­pre­ta­ti­ons, he re­que­sted via A­friForum that We­stern Ca­pe pre­mier He­len Zil­le launch a com­mis­si­on of in­qui­ry.

Vos­loo has said that alt­hough he agrees with Klat­zow’s re­port, he would li­ke to see the full ver­si­on of the mu­ni­ci­pal re­port in or­der to con­si­der their fin­dings pro­per­ly.

Ac­cor­ding to him the pre­sen­ta­ti­on ma­de by Ma­nu­el to the p­ress did not con­tain all the in­for­ma­ti­on that was gat­he­red and t­his in­for­ma­ti­on mig­ht shed so­me lig­ht on the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s fin­dings.

P­ho­to: S­te­fan Goo­sen

Knys­na fi­re chief C­lin­ton Ma­nu­el

P­ho­to: Ro­zier van Ton­der

Fo­ren­sic s­cien­tist Dr Da­vid Klat­zow

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