The 7th of June will be imprinted on our minds for years to come, as this day changed the lives of many Knysna residents. Some of us suffered damage or total loss, some of us were traumatized by the event, and many of us are just to old to rebuild the lives that we once had.
Our once green hillside transformed into a war torn zone with the skeletal remains of once proud homes etched against a backdrop of blackened trees and shrubs. The stillness after the ‘Great Fire’ was eerie, not a bird in sight, not a dog barking, no happy chatting of gardeners in the street.
The scouting birds soon put the message out that there is an abundance of food available at certain remaining homes. Owners have been putting out fruit and water to feed these poor creatures. On Brenton hill the blackened remains of trees are daily festooned with disks of oranges that attract the nectar feeders of the area.
An interesting observation in our property is that members of the Apocynaceae family acted as a fire retardant – where the trellises were covered with star jasmine, the structures were untouched, yet the exposed trellises went up in a puff of smoke. The verge that use to be a magical mix of various succulents and fynbos, succumbed in the fiery blaze, yet the aloes are now resprouting; battle scarred, but bravely producing new leaves.
I hope that this event will bring home the impact of invasive species in Knysna; Bottlebrush and Australian myrtle burned to cinders, just like the wattle species, Fountain grass vaporized, and Lantana added fuel to the fire, Washintonia palms went up like candles. It is a documented fact that invasive alien species intensify heat, they are highly combustible and will fuel any fire under normal conditions, let alone the ‘perfect’ conditions we had on that day.
It is time (albeit too late) to take action against people or landowners who do not adhere to the Law. Organs of State, (Sanral, Escom, and Municipalities) must now get their houses in order and formulate their Management Plans for the eradication of invasive species before October this year. They already had one years extension! From next year they are accountable ……
The buck stops with the Estate Agents as they are morally duty bound to inform the seller and the buyer that the Law requires the seller to notify the buyer of any invasive species which may occur on the property. The Voetstoots clause in ‘Offer to purchase’ document will no longer suffice.
All landowners must also remember that Category 1a & 1b must be removed and controlled, Category 2 plants need a permit, Category 3 plants may remain under certain conditions.
Remember, the invasive plants will come back in their millions – a cohesive plan should be in place for the removal of the new saplings before they get established and form large colonies. If action is not taken we will be nurturing the biomass for the next great fire.