Volunteer firefighters head to Knysna

09 June 2017 - 09:02
By Katharine Child
A massive fire tore through a factory on South Coast Road, Durban south, on Friday morning. 
Picture Credit: Jackie Clausen
A massive fire tore through a factory on South Coast Road, Durban south, on Friday morning. Picture Credit: Jackie Clausen

A Johannesburg businessman is gathering 100 volunteer qualified firemen and taking them off to Knysna after organising free air tickets.

Diederick Stopforth woke up on Thursday‚ heard about the fires and thought “I can’t just Facebook and twitter about this“.

“I need to do something.”

Stopforth used contacts in the aviation industry and businesses to get Kulula.com to get 100 air free tickets.

He tweeted about his idea and has been contacted non stop by emergency personnel and media.

Witness account: How I escaped raging Knysna firesWhen the electricity went out on Wednesday we knew the fires that had been raging in Knysna were getting close to Plett. 

The firemen leave on Friday morning.

Disaster management on the ground in Knysna has insisted they be highly experienced and qualified firemen‚

“This is a very dangerous situation.”

On Thursday afternoon he gathered about 50 qualified firemen‚ some retired‚ to fight the blaze.

He is hoping more will come forward. They still need to find accommodation near Knysna but he said they were preparing to fight fires for 24 hours at a time.

In another act of goodwill‚ Stellenbosch student Dean Morgan decided to take a trailer full of food and clothing from local churches and “friends and friends of friends” to Knysna on Thursday afternoon.

He wanted to support a place where he spent many a happy vacation growing up.

About 10‚000 people have been evacuated after strong winds fanned fires that destroyed suburbs of Knysna and Rheenendal.

Many are staying in community halls.

Those who want to do more than use Facebook to talk about the tragedy can donate non-perishable food‚ clothes and water to Engen garages and courier company Skynet will collect donations and take them to Knysna.

Other ways to get involved:

In the Western Cape‚ fire stations have become drop-off points for clothes‚ blankets‚ bottled water and non-perishable food.

These will be taken by courier company DHL free of charge to evacuated Knysna residents.

Sedgefield fire station is also collecting water bottles and energy bars for the Knysna firefighters.

Other people are dropping off food and clothes at the Sedgefield Community Hall where residents have sought shelter.

Johannesburg resident Sarah Hansen Rogers‚ who has family in Knysna that lost everything‚ is organising a massive truck to take food and donations from Johannesburg to the Garden Route town.

She can be reached on Facebook.

The ‘Knysna/Plett moms in need after fire’ Facebook group are trying to set up a trust fund to manage donations legally and above board.

A storage company called Stor-age is collecting donations at any of its bright red storage sites in major cities. Visit their twitter handle for more info. @stor–age

Other people are donating space in their homes‚ or offering to help with abandoned animals or collecting donations in their cities to send to the Garden Route.

To find out how to get involved join Facebook groups:

- Knysna Fire Community Group

- Knysna fires 7 June

- Knysna Fire Community Self-Help

- Knysna/Plett moms in need after fire


Watch: Witness account of Knysna wildfire: 'It looks like a war zone'