A secret internal investigation by scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research into the origin of the Great Fire that engulfed the Garden Route town of Knysna last year could open the floodgates to negligence lawsuits running into the billions against Knysna Municipality and its fire brigade.
The investigation, conducted by specialist scientists at the CSIR’s prestigious Meraka Institute, set out to establish the origin of what is known as the western fire, which started in the forests of Elandskraal, 20km north-west of Knysna, in the early hours of June 7. Was it a long-smouldering forest fire ignited by lightning? Or a man-made log fire lit by a pine-cone in a farmland clearing?
The Great Fire was the worst, most fearsome conflagration on the Garden Route since 1869. More than 600 firefighters battled its separate blazes for days. Seven people died and 10,000 were evacuated from their homes. Some 487 properties in Eastford, Knysna Heights, Paradise and part of Knysna Central were destroyed and 1,533 households registered as disaster victims with Knysna Municipality.