“My view and the Knysna Fire Department’s view are 180 degrees apart.” That’s the opinion of Dr David Klatzow who was hired by Afriforum to investigate the Great Knysna Fire. His presentation of his report was streamed live on Facebook and is guaranteed to amplify the rejection by residents of Knysna Municipality’s report.
Klatzow said that he entered into the project with foreboding as many fires was an immediate red flag, indicating arson. However, after investigation, he dismissed that, separating the fires into two main origins.
The fire that began in Dam-se-Bos, on the eastern side of Knysna, raced separately towards Plettenberg Bay. Klatzow believes that fire started as a combination of human negligence and wind.
His focus became the fire on the other side of Knysna in the Karatara/Elandskraal region. There, the tracking of the fire was assisted by the failure of power lines. In fact, Eskom power lines reported surges two months previously which, after triangulation, shows, with good accuracy, where a lightning strike occurred. This led to a smouldering fire which continued underground until the winds of June 7 combusted it into flame that attacked Knysna.
This is the same area where the Knysna Fire Department has been accused of failing to respond to complaints of fire by residents. If Klatzow’s report is true, that makes the Knysna Municipality culpable for the fire, it’s damage and deaths.
Fire Chief Clint Manuel was complimented by Knysna Mayor Eleanore Spies when he presented his alternate report which claimed that the cause of the fire was likely by vagrants with pine cones and logs. Klatzow’s tone may have been diplomatic but his words were clearly reprimanding: “Never be an investigator in your own cause. Never be a judge in your own case.”
He went further by stating that the Knysna Fire Department based their report on a number of false premises. Their point of origin of the fire was incorrect, located on the wrong side of a hill. They also “quoted local residents out of context in a way that changes what they said.”
“All fires need to be taken more seriously” and local councils need to be “more insensitive” towards their threat. During the question and answer session afterwards, Klatzow said that we, “Need to persuade the authorities to establish a commission of inquiry.”
Comments by the Public on Facebook were very complimentary towards Afriforum for the investigation and presentation. You can also express your opinion on the Love Knysna Facebook page.