It is highly likely that a person started the fire that devastated Knysna in June‚ says the Garden Route town’s fire chief.
Clinton Manuel said pine cones — often used as kindling — and charred logs were found on private land in the mountainous Elandskraal area where the fire started. But he could not say whether the fire was started deliberately.
Three fires that spread rapidly in a strong wind on June 7 ended up claiming seven lives and burning 846 homes. They caused damage put at R4-billion.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday at Knysna Council Chambers‚ Manuel said there were no pine trees in the area where the fire started. but there was a footpath and an access road.
“The probable cause comes down to that pine cone‚” he said.
Firefighters responded to a fire in Kruisfontein at 3.30am‚ another in Lancewood at 4.14am and the final fire in Elandskraal at 6.15am.
Municipal manager Kam Chetty said Manuel’s report would be given to the police for further investigation.
Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies said the fire disaster had prompted the municipality to change its approach in dealing with future disasters‚ but for now its priority was stabilising bare slopes and preventing extreme erosion.