800 to 1 000 firefighters have reportedly been deployed to various areas around Knysna, protecting homesteads and forest from further destruction.
According to Louise Wessels, Manager at Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association - who has deployed many of her colleagues to the Knysna area - the firefighters are currently "attacking" and "mopping up". Attacking a fire is the process of extinguishing while mopping up is the process of dousing hot embers left behind. Wessels says mopping up is equally important because one of the biggest concerns right now is for hot embers to be fanned by the (forecast) high winds and they reignite a fire again.
That is why they have so many feet on the ground. That they can go back and ensure it is out.— Louise Wessels, Manager at Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association
But because these crews come from different organisations, they can't be serviced by a single radio system.
As a result, crews are using their cellphones to communicate with each other, co-ordinating their efforts. Now over 48 hours into this fire, airtime and data, their primary means of communication in this situation, is running low. Co-ordinators are asking for help from the public and corporates.
Battery packs or power banks are also needed as the firefighters don't have the means to recharge their phones.
The authorities just don't have the systems to quickly get airtime to the guys on the ground.— Louise Wessels, Manager at Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association