South Africa – On 22 August 2017, AfriForum released the results of its investigation into the fires that devastated the Knysna area in June this year. The organisation commissioned Dr David Klatzow of SJ Klatzow Forensic Support Specialists to conduct an investigation into the cause and origin of the fires that extended from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay on 7 June 2017 and subsequent days. My investigations showed that an accidental fire started at Dam se Bos, east of Knysna, said Klatzow. This fire spread southwards to involve the Pezula Estate and went on through the wooded areas to reach Plettenberg Bay. The ferocity of this set of fires was exacerbated by the prolonged drought and the development of gale-force winds that rendered the fire almost unstoppable, he elaborated. Klatzow found that the second fire, which crossed the estuary at about 07h30 on 7 June and engulfed the western suburbs of Knysna, was unrelated to the first fire mentioned. The second fire also burned along the Brenton Estate, Brenton-on-Sea and Brenton-on-Lake suburbs along the western shores of the estuary. This one split into two fires, one affecting greater Knysna and the other affecting the western side of the estuary, Klatzow said.
Klatzows finding was that these fires originated high in the forested area some 20 kilometres north west of Knysna. The most reasonable inference I can observe regarding the ignition source of this fire was a well-documented lightning strike, he stated. This caused a localised smouldering combustion in the undergrowth which was fanned to significant flaming combustion higher in the canopy of the forest on the morning of 7 June 2017. The climatic and wind conditions drove this fire into Knysna, he explained.
Klatzow conclusion regarding the fires that occurred at Mossel Bay was that they formed separate incidents and were started deliberately. He found no sign of any of the fires to the north east of Plettenberg Bay having been caused by deliberate human agency. However, he observed tall trees planted near to the power lines in that area, which, he said, have the potential of falling onto those power lines.