Heroes rise out of the Gar­den Route in­ferno

Trauma from fires only made bear­able by over­whelm­ing sup­port

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - YOLANDE STANDER

OUT of the ashes of the dev­as­tat­ing fires that en­gulfed large parts of the Gar­den Route rose com­mu­ni­ties of heroes.

While many res­i­dents who lost ev­ery­thing in these fires are still bat­tling to come to grips with the trauma they ex­pe­ri­enced, most say the loss was made bear­able by the over­whelm­ing sup­port from their com­mu­ni­ties.

Some vol­un­teers and neigh­bours grabbed hoses and as­sisted their fel­low res­i­dents in keep­ing the flames at bay, while oth­ers opened their homes to those who needed shel­ter.

Count­less drop-off points for food, cloth­ing and other ne­ces­si­ties have been set up and are over­flow­ing in af­fected towns while re­lief funds have been es­tab­lished to as­sist those in need.

Some res­i­dents and busi­nesses jumped in and made food for fire­fight­ers while oth­ers brought in ve­hi­cles to load up res­i­dents’ be­long­ings in the path of the fire.

Ros Ger­ber, a teacher at Heather­hill School in Knysna and res­i­dent in Bren­ton, said she was over­whelmed by the com­mu­nity spirit in Knysna.

The coastal hol­i­day town was the worst- af­fected area along the Gar­den Route.

Ger­ber lost her house, her car and ev­ery­thing she owned in the fire.

Ger­ber was in Knysna when she saw the West­ern Head in Knysna go up in flames just be­fore 1pm on Wed­nes­day.

“We knew we needed to head home but when we ar­rived at the White Bridge (en­trance to Bren­ton) it had al­ready been closed,” Ger­ber said.

She tried sev­eral other op­tions of get­ting to her prop­erty in­clud­ing a ferry but could not reach her home.

She even­tu­ally ended up at Bren­ton-on-Lake from where she saw her home go up in flames at about 9 that night.

“My car, which was at home, also ex­ploded.”

She de­scribed the fire as quick and fierce with in­tense heat.

“My teenage son Joe was at home when the fire ap­proached. He man­aged to get all our pets into a car and drove to the Bren­ton Ho­tel.

“From there he walked across the beach with our par­rot, the pet rats and the dogs and ended in Buf­fels Bay.”

From there, Joe was taken to Sedge­field via one of the GoGe­orge buses sent from Ge­orge to as­sist with evac­u­a­tions, and was given shel­ter and Pine Lake Ma­rina.

When the fire was con­tained, Ger­ber and her fam­ily went to stay with her mother in Plet­ten­berg Bay.

“I can­not de­scribe the sup­port we have been re­ceiv­ing over the past few days. Peo­ple have just been open­ing their hearts to us. It is truly amaz­ing to live in a com­mu­nity that cares so much,” Ger­ber said. – Gar­den Route Me­dia


Thou­sands of peo­ple have been af­fected and hun­dreds of homes have been de­stroyed as run­way fires swept through ar­eas around Knysna and Plet­ten­berg Bay. A firefighter has lost his life and a fam­ily was killed in the fires.

Bradley Richards

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