Cape Town – The catastrophic fire in Knysna and surrounds has given the fynbos and vegetation in the area an opportunity for a fresh start, with SANParks even making free indigenous trees available for affected homeowners in the scarred landscape.
According to an aerial survey of the fire scars around the Garden Route National Park, the most affected area was Harkerville, where the flames turned on volunteer firefighter Bradley Richards and colleague Ian Barnard.
Richards was burnt severely on June 8, when the flames rose high, and died later in hospital.
Barnard is recovering from the serious injuries he also sustained in the fire.
According to SANParks, the area that burnt in Harkerville was mostly fynbos islands that had overgrown into thickets because they had not burnt over a few years.
SANParks spokesperson Nandi Mgwadlamba said the fynbos’ recovery was important because it formed one of five biomes of the Cape Floral Kingdom. One way of managing it was through controlled burning, so that the biome stayed as fynbos and did not change into something else.
The burnt veld near the N2, though not an indigenous forest, would recover quickly because of the seeds on the ground.
SANParks said residents now had a great opportunity to remove alien and invasive species from their gardens, and replace them with indigenous species from their local nurseries.
The website iSpot nature is helpful in identifying alien species, or the SANParks’ Biodiversity Social Programme (BSP) teams can help, as can the local municipalities.
Free indigenous tree made available
SANParks is also keeping an eye on landslides into the popular estuary, because of the denuded landscape, and is already liaising with NGOs regarding potential locations for silt traps.
SANParks believes that only heavy rainfall will lead to a landslide.
In the meantime, SANParks scientists Wessel Vermeulen, Melanie de Morney and others have joined up with Knysna animal welfare groups to help animals outside of the park, which would have been stranded in peri-urban areas and could not escape the fire.
These include buck, monkeys, and even pets.
The Gift of the Givers has also contributed to a project to save the area’s bees.
“We were also overwhelmed by the volunteers who came forward to help map affected infrastructure onto a GIS map for the town of Knysna,” said Mgwadlamba.
“Paddy Gordon, [SANParks manager] has expressed his gratitude to all the volunteers and assistance during and post the fires.”
Residents affected by the fires, who wish to get an indigenous tree, can message Nandi Mgwadlamba on the SANParks Garden Route page.