Knysna Fire Report: Telltale signs of human activity at origin of fire

Chief Fire Officer at Knysna Municipality Clinton Manuel talks to John Maytham about the findings of the Knysna Fire Report released on Monday at a media briefing.

The report focused on the cause and impact of the devastating fires that occurred between 6 and 10 June leading to the death of seven people and destroying many homes and properties.

The report looked at two theories. One was a lightening strike and the other was human activity. The conclusion led the investigators to that of human activity.

Manuel says his investigation began on 8 June with the first feasible flight over the area and says two distinct areas presented themselves in roughly the same area.

The areas were furthest North-West in terms of the fire spread.

He says the one area displayed a very distinctive V-area which he says, is very synonymous with the way in which wild fires spread. The other area, however, did not present this pattern.

Upon further investigation, on the ground, they found a clearing at the point of the V.

And this clearing presented us with a telltale sign of human activity that was actually present in this area before. We found evidence of previously lit fires, we found access paths to this area, and then we also found more recent evidence of a fire that was lit.

Clinton Manuel, Chief Fire Officer at Knysna Municipality

He says pine cones found in the area that would not normally be present suggest humans carried them there. In addition, the pine cones were stacked to make a fire, he adds.

That could be the most recent origin or cause of the fire.

Clinton Manuel, Chief Fire Officer at Knysna Municipality

I'm of the opinion that somebody was down there and made a fire for warmth or for cooking - we don't know - and the wind on 7 June that came up so strongly early morning, took the fire and spread it and caused the devastating fire.

Clinton Manuel, Chief Fire Officer at Knysna Municipality

Unless somebody is caught in the act is not easy to know if a fire was set accidentally or deliberately he says.

One could never conclusively say it was done deliberately.

Clinton Manuel, Chief Fire Officer at Knysna Municipality

Manuel outlines plans to implement better preventative methods. It is a learning curve for every municipality, he says.

Listen to the interview below:

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