A 2010 fire risk analysis predicted the Great Knysna Fire! If ever people are held accountable for the destruction and death, this may become strong evidence of their failure to act.
The Landwater Facebook page has added a new chapter to its Pandora’s Box series about the Great Knysna Fire, calling this one: THE PAST CATCHING UP? The main question you’ll have after reading this is who had the information and why didn’t they do something with it?
“This is one of those Eureka-moments where the exceptionally talented group of people at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) saw what was coming back in early 2010 – correct, this may just be opening Pandora’s Box…”
NATIONAL VELDFIRE RISK ASSESSMENT
Analysis of exposure of social, economic and environmental assets to veldfire hazards in South Africa … pages 30-31…
8.4 Knysna / Tsitsikamma commercial pine plantation
Context: Mid-aged pine plantation forest primarily Pinus elliottii embedded in fynbos in mountainous terrain.
- Employees, homesteads
- Plantation forest resources;
- Buildings, machinery and equipment;
- Infrastructure: power lines, telecommunications;
- Environmental – soils, catchment values
- Time of year: May to September.
- Prevailing weather conditions: 30-40 km/hr NE-NW winds and changing to SW gusting to 100 km/hr, warm to hot (25º C plus, RH 20-50% and less), after 2-3 days of high FDI (Orange and Red > 61), nor preceding rain
- Fuel type structure and state: pine plantation (P.elliottii / P.radiata) with 10-20 tonnes/ha litter, with adjacent fynbos with 15-40 tonnes/ha, fuelbed.
- Terrain: rolling hill slopes, mountainous terrain with deep valleys, average about 30% gradients.
- Fire behaviour: blow-up fire, 2 km/hr, 5-15 m flame length prevalent with crown fires, 3-10 km front, and spotting, grows to 1,000 ha in plantation within 24 hours.
- Social: serious injury or death: job losses, loss of houses and livelihoods; Catastrophic
- Economic: extensive loss of timber resource, sawmills, machinery and equipment, buildings: major; towns and villages exposed and could be affected as well as agricultural; Forest and timber industry more prominent here than in the west and the timber resource is more closely linked to eco-tourism. Major
- Environmental: Biodiversity negatively effected in case of too frequent fires resulting in local loss of species; loss of topsoil due to erosion during heavy rains (flooding) follows severe fires; water resource degraded; spread of alien invasive plant species: High
Risk level: Extreme social; High economic; High environmental. Overall = Extreme
In this scenario, which currently is likely in this region as exemplified by recent cases, a wildfire under late winter berg wind conditions in advance of a cold front exceeds the landowners’ capacity to respond, requiring neighbour, municipal and regional support.
Under the conditions of severe weather and high loads of flammable fuels, the fire cannot be contained within 12 hours; the wildfire destroys resources as set out above. Serious human injury and even mortality is more likely in such fires than those in the surrounding fynbos. Combustion of heavy, dry ground fuels within the forest plantations destroys surface soil horizons, resulting in subsequent erosion and loss of catchment values; burnt plantations sites become seed sources for invasion of surrounding fynbos.
Download: Risk Assessment Analysis [538KB]
Published: March 2010
- Worth reading the full assessment as the line(s) of thinking and assessment have application in other regions in South Africa.
- El Niño was prevalent from mid-2009 until early Q2 2010.
- Worth considering pages 13/14: Workshop participants and key informants.
Mike Hampton Observations:
The scientists predicted the danger we were in.
The fire risk analysis assessed 32 towns in the Western Cape. Knysna was determined to be the most at risk, George was second. The third was far, far behind.
It’s important to discover who in government received this report. Did they fail to act on it? Or did they try, finding others unwilling to cooperate? Was the Knysna Municipality informed?
Never forget that our Garden Route towns remain at risk.