Heroes rise out of the Garden Route inferno
Trauma from fires only made bearable by overwhelming support
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.