Knysna fires: Tally of destruction grows


Knysna fires: Tally of destruction grows

 
07 July 2017

published by http://www.fireandrescue.co


South Africa – The tally of houses completely destroyed by the Garden Route fires has risen to a staggering 1 059, according to the Knysna Municipality’s fire disaster damage register, reports the Knysna-Plett Herald. The number of houses that were just damaged in the fires has risen to 385. The runaway fires, that began on 7 June 2017 and burned along a 300km fire line for nearly two weeks, stretched from Great Brak to outside Port Elizabeth. Knysna was the hardest hit, particularly the suburb of Knysna Heights where 263 houses, all formal dwellings, were destroyed or damaged by fire, just under 20 percent of all houses in the suburb. Next was White Location, where 259 homes were damaged or destroyed, 19,2 percent of all dwellings there.

While the authorities continue with repairs to infrastructure, they are still counting the monetary cost of the fires, according to mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies. She said that once the provincial government has submitted its report on the full extent and cost of the fire damage, the national government would indicate how much it would contribute in relief aid. She said national government has already said they could help immediately with the creation of 500 jobs in the fire clean-up programme.

50 percent uninsured

Bouw-Spies said she was concerned that more than 50 percent of houses damaged by fire was not insured. The majority of houses destroyed were formal dwellings. The online fire disaster register is continually updated as new information about damage comes in.

After Knysna Heights and White Location, other areas where many houses were destroyed or damaged by fire are: Brenton-on-Sea where 99 houses were affected, which is 7,3 percent of the total number of houses in the suburb; Eastford 95 (7,03 percent); Paradise 91 (6,8 percent); Knysna CBD 67 (4,97 percent); Welbedacht 63 (4,7 percent); Concordia 54 (3,8 percent); Nekkies 44 (3,2 percent); Rheenendal 34 (2,5 percent); Upper Place 23 (1,7 percent) and Belvidere 20 (1,4 percent).

Suburbs where the number of houses destroyed or damaged was below 20 are: Greenfields 16 (1,19 percent); Noetzie 14 (46,2 percent) Brenton-on-Lake 13 (0,97 percent); Oupad 12 (0,89 percent); Buffalo Bay 10 (0,75 percent); Dam se Bos 9 (0,67 percent); Flenters 8 (0,60 percent); Joodse Kamp 8 (0,60 percent); Karatara 7 (0,52 percent); Khayalethu 7 (0,53 percent); Rhobobolo 7 (0,52 percent); Hornlee East 6 (0,45 percent); Hornlee West 7 (0,52 percent); Enthembeni 6 (0,45 percent); Hunter’s Home 5 (0,60 percent); Sedgefield 4 (0,3 percent); Bongani 4 (0,30 percent); Lower Place 3 (0,23 percent) and Rexford 2 (0,15 percent).

Major problems

Councillor Mark Willemse told residents at a report-back meeting that a major problem in fighting the massive fires had been the lack of communications as well as electricity outages. Landlines were down and Cell C and MTN were not operating. Vodacom had been working. “Comms was an issue. We used SMSes and loud hailers. One thing we can work on better and can change is communications,” Willemse said at the meeting.

Another problem was that the joint operating centre coordinating the fire fighting and evacuation operations, had been without electricity. Willemse said Knysna’s entire disaster management plan would be changed “drastically” in the wake of the massive fires, which at times were burning in 26 different places. “The fires have been a good kick up the butt to wake us up to just what disasters can cause. We will look at anything and everything to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The mayor said at the meeting that a major lesson learned was the difficulty in getting in and out of Knysna in the event of extensive fires. “The road network is a problem. At one time both exits from Knysna were closed because of fires. At one stage we were looking at evacuating 6 000 people from Rheenendal, but we couldn’t get the “Go George!” buses in from George. Luckily we didn’t have to evacuate them,” Bouw-Spies said.

Climate change

Experts have said the number of natural disasters such as fires, floods, droughts and extreme weather events is increasing as a result of global climate change. Asked if Knysna would take the reality of climate change into account in its future disaster management plan, Bouw-Spies said: “We will adopt a climate change adaptation strategy. It is time for us to make sure that we do that.”

Another factor that fuelled the fires was the vast amount of alien vegetation in the area, which burns hotter and spreads faster than indigenous vegetation. Willemse said the council would tackle the enforcement of alien-tree clearing. Landowners outside the urban edge are legally bound to clear their properties of certain invasive alien vegetation, which consumes large quantities of water and is a fire hazard. Asked if the council would ensure that controlled burns are done at Knysna’s large housing estates, where this was a condition of approval when the provincial government gave the estates development approval, Willemse said the council would do so.

There were 25 tourist establishments damaged, which represented about 500 beds. About 2 500 people had lost jobs. The mayor said she is concerned that domestic workers would also lose their jobs in cases where their employers have lost their houses.

Incentives to rebuild

The council is worried that some residents who were insured would decide not to rebuild but would take their insurance payouts and leave Knysna. This would have a negative effect on the rates base. The council is considering incentives to prevent this and as a start would waive building plan fees for those houses that were rebuilt according to the original plans. The council is also discussing how it could ensure that houses are built in a more sustainable way, incorporating rainwater tanks and renewable energy. “We really need to be greener in this town,” Willemse said.

Knysna has more than enough donations of clothing and does not need more. What it needs now is tinned food, toiletries and “white goods” such as toasters, kettles and microwaves. Bouw-Spies said many people from all walks of life came to help during the fire. “I have really been humbled by all the assistance and help and all the people who just want to do something, anything,” she said.

It’s been a fairly wet spring and summer this year, but when it gets dry for weeks at a time, the New York State Forest Rangers keep a close watch on forest fire danger in the Adirondacks.

In the early 1900s, fires ravaged thousands of acres of forest land in the Adirondack Park, particularly along railroad corridors. It caused alarm in Albany. The old system, created when the Forest Preserve was formed in 1885, wasn’t working.

A new approach was needed, so the New York Legislature enacted new laws in 1909 to fight fires in the Adirondacks and Catskills. It was a game-changing moment, one that would lead to the establishment of the Forest Ranger Division in 1912 and the construction of more than 100 fire towers.

It’s been a fairly wet spring and summer this year, but when it gets dry for weeks at a time, the New York State Forest Rangers keep a close watch on forest fire danger in the Adirondacks. In the early 1900s, fires ravaged thousands of acres of forest land in the Adirondack Park, particularly along railroad corridors. It caused alarm in Albany. The old system, created when the Forest Preserve was formed in 1885, wasn’t working. A new approach was needed, so the New York Legislature enacted new laws in 1909 to fight fires in the Adirondacks and Catskills. It was a game-changing moment, one that would lead to the establishment of the Forest Ranger Division in 1912 and the construction of more than 100 fire towers.

It’s been a fairly wet spring and summer this year, but when it gets dry for weeks at a time, the New York State Forest Rangers keep a close watch on forest fire danger in the Adirondacks.

In the early 1900s, fires ravaged thousands of acres of forest land in the Adirondack Park, particularly along railroad corridors. It caused alarm in Albany. The old system, created when the Forest Preserve was formed in 1885, wasn’t working.

A new approach was needed, so the New York Legislature enacted new laws in 1909 to fight fires in the Adirondacks and Catskills. It was a game-changing moment, one that would lead to the establishment of the Forest Ranger Division in 1912 and the construction of more than 100 fire towers.

It’s been a fairly wet spring and summer this year, but when it gets dry for weeks at a time, the New York State Forest Rangers keep a close watch on forest fire danger in the Adirondacks. In the early 1900s, fires ravaged thousands of acres of forest land in the Adirondack Park, particularly along railroad corridors. It caused alarm in Albany. The old system, created when the Forest Preserve was formed in 1885, wasn’t working. A new approach was needed, so the New York Legislature enacted new laws in 1909 to fight fires in the Adirondacks and Catskills. It was a game-changing moment, one that would lead to the establishment of the Forest Ranger Division in 1912 and the construction of more than 100 fire towers.

The forest fire, which started on the night of June 24 and still smoldering in Spain’s southwestern region of Huelva, burned a total of 8,486 hectares, the Andalusian Regional Government said on Wednesday. Environmental spokesman for Andalusia, Jose Fiscal, confirmed the damage on his Twitter account. Over 2,000 people had had to be evacuated from hotels and campsites on the perimeter of the fire, he said. He added that the perimeter established around the fire was actually 10,900 hectares, but within that perimeter, 2,414 hectares of woodland were still intact. The fire damaged two protected areas: 6,761 hectares of Donana National Park, which has UNESCO protected status and is home to around 400 different species such as the threatened Iberian Lynx and Iberian Eagle, and 17 hectares of Laguna de Palos y Madres Nature Park. The Andalusian government believed that had it not been for the work of fire fighters, who at the height of the blaze numbered around 500, the damage would have been far worse for the 43,225 hectares of woods and scrubland. According to the regional government, temperatures were around 40 degrees Celsius when the fire began, with a wind-speed of between 30 and 40 km per hour (km/h) and gusts of up to 90 km/h at night, which helped propagate the flames and made it impossible to use aircraft or helicopters to fight the fire. A total of 50 firemen remain in the zone to continue the work of damping down and to ensure there are no flare ups, while investigations continue into the cause of the blaze. Authorities have not ruled out a human cause.
Read full text at: http://eng.belta.by/society/view/spanish-forest-fire-burns-over-8400-hectares-in-and-around-national-park-102857-2017/
If you use BelTA’s materials, you must credit us with a hyperlink to eng.belta.by.Tropical peat swamp forests, which once occupied large swaths of Southeast Asia and other areas, provided a significant “sink” that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But such forests have been disappearing fast due to clear-cutting and drainage projects making way for plantations. Now, research shows peatlands face another threat, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, potentially destroying even forested peatlands that remain undrained.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-06-peatlands-dwindling-losses.html#jCpTropical peat swamp forests, which once occupied large swaths of Southeast Asia and other areas, provided a significant “sink” that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But such forests have been disappearing fast due to clear-cutting and drainage projects making way for plantations. Now, research shows peatlands face another threat, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, potentially destroying even forested peatlands that remain undrained.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-06-peatlands-dwindling-losses.html#jCp


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