Author: Herman

Experience – Share the vision

All employees of Garden Route District Municipality gathered at Swartvlei Caravan Park on 7 December 2018 to celebrate the municipality’s successes to date. Employees were given the opportunity to immerse themselves into a distinctive entertainment experience through music and mingling with others who they do not usually see on a daily basis.

The vision of the municipality reads: “Garden Route District Municipality, the leading, enabling and inclusive district, characterised by equitable and sustainable development, high quality of life and equal opportunities for all”.

Notice: Tabling of 2017/18 Annual Report of Garden Route DM

Notice is hereby given that the Annual Report for the 2017/18 financial year will be tabled at the Garden Route District Municipality Council meeting on 13 December 2018 in terms of Section 127(2) of the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), 52 of 2003. Also, the Annual Report is tabled as informed by circular 63 of the MFMA.

Firefighters battle blazes for a month

On 21 October 2018 wildfires ignited in Vermaaklikheid near Riversdale in Hessequa. A few days later, more wildfires started in the George municipal area. The Disaster Management Centre of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) recorded 12 wildfires over the month of October/November 2018, which also resulted in the death of 9 people, including a Working on Fire pilot.

Said to be one of the biggest wildfires recorded since the great wildfire of 1869, the Garden Route is facing a new “normal”. The change can be seen across the globe and it is almost common knowledge that climate change is not on our side. This poses an important question – how can we address this? Can we prevent these type of occurrences in the future or are we doomed?

In short, the Head of Disaster Management at Garden Route District Municipality, Mr Gerhard Otto explains: “ Municipalities and stakeholders, together as a collective we have to develop a system to better plan for fires in our wildland-urban interphase (WUI). Our town planners need to factor wildland fire risk into future development planning and our bylaws, as well as building codes, will have to be altered to ensure resilience to this type of fire incidents. With this, I mean that there should be adequate by-laws in place to address issues like high fire hazard areas. When we look at the urban fringes (where homes at the edge of neighbourhoods meet the forests), inhabitants should be made aware of the fire risk in these areas and a defensible space should be created around all properties not only to create a buffer area but also to provide a space from where firefighters could launch their firefighting actions when fires do approach these areas. In my opinion, the current fragmented approach to fire service delivery is central to many of our challenges, the sooner we centralise firefighting services by establishing a metropolitan municipality and address integrated veld fire management the better – “all efforts should be coordinated from one central authority”. He also added: ”During the recent wildfires, we managed to pull resources from all over South Africa together to work at our Joint Operations Centre at the GRDM head office. I know that since last year’s Knysna fires we have improved the way in which we do things, but there is always room for improvement”.

The following role players must be thanked for their selfless dedication to protect our communities and infrastructure over the past month: Provincial Disaster Management Centre, Working on Fire (WoF), South African National Defence Force, Cape Nature, SANParks, George Municipality, Knysna Municipality, Oudtshoorn Municipality, Bitou Municipality, Hessequa Municipality, Mossel Bay Municipality, Kannaland Municipality, Overberg DM, Cape Winelands DM, West Coast DM, City of Cape Town, Various NGOs and FBOs (Lions Alert, Rotary SA, Gift of the Givers, Garden Route Rebuild), SPCA, National and Provincial Departments, Department of Health, EMS, Human settlements, Rural Development, Housing Development Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, SASSA, DSD, ESKOM, Department of Transport, Provincial Traffic and SAPS.

CONTROLLED FIRES ARE BANNED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

All controlled burning of land in the Garden Route is prohibited.

Controlled burns  are not permitted to be done by any person other than the fire control authorities.

It has come under the attention of the Garden Route DM Joint Operations Centre (JOC) that some land owners are attempting to start controlled burns.

Everyone needs to adhere to these precautionary measures until further notice.

The municipality appeals to all people who live, work and visit the area to exercise extreme caution at all times; to make fires in protected and designated areas only, and to dispose of cigarette butts safely. There is a long, hot summer ahead and we need everyone to help in keeping our region safe.

For more information regarding fire permits, contact:
George – 044 801 6300
Hessequa – 028 713 8000
Mossel Bay – 044 606 5107
Kannaland – 044 805 5071
Oudtshoorn – 044 203 8911
Knysna – 044 302 8911
Bitou – 044 533 5000

For enquiries relating to wildfires, contact the Garden Route DM JOC on 044 805 5071.

Knysna – Smoke emissions caused by biomass burning at saw mill

It has come under the attention of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) that the public is concerned about smoke emissions in the Knysna municipal area. These emissions are caused by biomass burning at Geelhoutvlei Timbers. This area contains pine wood chips from untreated wood only. No arsenic or treated wood products are stored at the facility and the smoldering is caused by the burning of wood chips. It was already burning before the wildfire destroyed the wood mill.

The pollutants emitted by this smoldering area is mainly Oxides of Nitrogen, particulate matter, Carbon monoxide, CO2 and small concentrations of volatile organic compounds – these compounds normally form part of the pollutants emitted when biomass burns. The fire poses no severe health threat to the surrounding communities but will result in a nuisance effect, depending on the distance from the source, the wind speed and or direction thereof.

During a joint operations meeting held this morning, 13 November 2018, at GRDM, a decision was taken that the owners of Geelhoutvlei Timbers should be informed that this situation is triggering a National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998 (as amended), Section 30 incident. Section 30 incidents involves, amongst others, the unexpected, sudden and uncontrolled release from a major emission such as a fire. The responsible person in terms of Section 30 is the owner of the property – in this case, Geelhoutvlei Timbers. Subsequently, the owner of the property must take all reasonable measures to contain and minimize the effects of the incident, undertake clean-up procedures and remedy the effect of the incident.

If the property owners do not respond to this instruction, the relevant authority may follow steps and implement measures it considers necessary to contain and minimize the effects of the incident. This involves the undertaking of clean-up operations and remedy the effects of the incident. Government may claim for the reimbursement of all reasonable costs incurred at the scene, in terms of subsection (8) of the National Environmental Management Act from the responsible person.

GARDEN ROUTE WILDFIRES OF OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2018

On Wednesday 24 October a fire in the Harold area was reported to the Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) Disaster Management Centre (DMC) but at that point in time all available resources was still tied up at a fire raging at Vermaaklikheid.

Teams from the George Municipality responded to this fire and were joined by teams from the GRDM on the following day. The magnitude of the incident, as well as the potential risk of the fire led to the establishment of an Incident Management Team (IMT) and a Forward Control Point (FCP) was established at Witfontein. In addition to the Harold/George fire this IMT was informed of another fire on SANParks ground near Farleigh. San Parks informed the IMT that this fire is managed by their staff and was under control.

The fire spread in the Outeniqua Pass in areas not accessible by foot and was spreading towards the George Municipal area. One South African National Defense Force (SANDF) Oryx helicopter, two aerial tractors (fixed wing aircraft designed to bomb water) as well as two Huey helicopters from Working on Fire (WoF) and one private helicopter, were contracted to assist with firefighting operations. Unfortunately, at critical times during the firefighting operations, these resources could not be activated due to poor visibility making it impossible to use aerial resources.

The first areas threatened, included settlements on the northern side of the mountain.  These included Waboomskraal, Eselsjacht, Harold and Louvain. Extremely dry and windy conditions led to the rapid spread of this wildfire endangering George from the North on Monday 29 October 2018 leading to the call of voluntary evacuations in various areas of the town.

By Monday evening, 29 October 2018, 262 people were evacuated to the George Civic Centre (121 children, 137 adults, 11 elderly) in addition 133 students evacuated from the Nelson Mandela University campus in George (NMU). They were housed by Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) in George. The people evacuated in George were advised that they could return to their houses once the smoke has cleared and the area became safe.

In addition to the Harold/George wildfire, lightning during late Monday afternoon ignited wildfires in the following areas:

  • Hessequa municipal area: Grootvadersbosch, Garcia Pass,
  • Knysna municipal area : De Vlugt,
  • Mossel Bay municipal area: Jonkersberg,
  • Kannaland municipal area: Opsoek in the Swartberg mountains.

The Outeniqua mountain was once a lush-green sight for travelers and residents of the Garden Route – but now it has been left lifeless.

Around this time, the IMT was also informed that the wildfires on the Eastern Cape border near Stormsriver was completely out of control and the N2 would have had to be closed off periodically.

Due to gale force winds in the Karatara area (wind speed measured on the site reached 109 km/h), the wildfire on SANParks ground spread past the natural vegetation (normally seen as a wildfire break) and surprised the residents at Farleigh “ Bosdorp” Unfortunately 8 lives were lost when 13 of the 28 houses at the Bosdorp were completely destroyed.

The Department of Social Services personnel have been rendering trauma counselling to the bereaved as well as those traumatised by the wildfires. SASSA will assist where possible.

During the entire incident the Department of Education has arranged for school children to stay by safe school grounds until conditions at home turned back to ”normal”. They also provided accommodation at hostels for grade 12 learners who could have been affected by the wildfires where they resided – these learners are busy with their final-year exams at the moment.

During Monday afternoon on 29 October 2018, the Eskom powerlines providing power to Knysna, Bitou as well as Oudtshoorn, were affected by the wildfires which led to these areas being without power for a short period of time. Fortunately, the electricity was back up before the evening. On Wednesday, 31 October 2018, the power supply to the NMU was re- connected. Yesterday, for a second time, the power supply to Oudtshoorn had to be cut as teams had to work directly under the high voltage lines in the Highlands Lodge area (Waboomskraal). The power was partially re-connected at 17h00 yesterday afternoon.

On Sunday evening 28 October 2018, the wildfires posed a real threat to the George waterworks but with well-timed back-burns this threat was eliminated.

Most of the patients treated by the George hospital and clinics were due to smoke inhalation. Two of the people injured at the Karatara wildfire are still being treated at the George Hospital.

Yesterday, 4 November 2018, the main areas of concern included the:

  • northern flank moving towards Highlands lodge and farms in the Langkloof;
  • western flank moving towards the main power supply line of Oudtshoorn;
  • active fire line on the East at Buffelsnek/ Keurbooms River mowing towards the Kransbos community; and
  • Garcia plantation wildfire.

Structures lost to date:

  • Ou Tolhuis on Montagu Pass;
  • Beervlei: three (3) structures completely destroyed and 8 badly damaged;
  • Protea Valley: 6 structures destroyed (they were empty);
  • Geelhoutvlei Timbers: 5 structures;
  • Geelhoutvlei Timbers Sawmill completely destroyed;
  • Garden route horse trails: four (4) structures;
  • Farleigh/Bosdorp: 13 completely destroyed and 8 badly damaged;
  • Bergplaas: 1 structure;
  • On farms ( total not confirmed); and
  • Various plantations burned – approximately 3700 Ha.

Areas pro-actively evacuated during this fire: (+/- 1000 people)

From George urban fringe settlements to halls in George (+/- 395 people)

From Knysna rural areas to halls in Knysna (+/- 250people)

From Mossel Bay – MTO Jonkersberg to the Van Der Hoven School (+/- 136 people)

From Hessequa – MTO Garcia pass to nearby school ( +/-55 people)

NO FIREWORKS, CRACKERS OR CHINESE LANTERNS ON GUY FAWKES OR ANY OTHER DAY

Garden Route District Municipality and Local Municipalities in the region, would like to advise residents and visitors that the discharge of fireworks from any area (including your own backyard) is not permitted at any time. Discharging of any firecrackers or emergency flares for celebratory purposes are also prohibited.

We would also like to appeal to residents and visitors not to use so-called ‘Chinese lanterns’ as these pose a significant fire risk.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) also asks people not to use sky lanterns as they float out to sea and are often reported as emergency flares, which in turn cause Sea Rescue hours of fruitless searching.

Let us work together to make these fire season safe for all.

Please report the setting off of fireworks or the trade of fireworks to the following numbers:

  • Mossel Bay – 044 606 5107
  • George – 044 801 6301
  • Oudtshoorn – 044 203 7800
  • Bitou – 044 533 5000
  • Knysna – 044 302 8911
  • Hessequa – 084 014 1828 / 028 713 8000
  • Kannaland – 044 805 5071
  • Garden Route District Municipality Emergency Call Centre – 044 805 5071

We are still open for business – travelers encouraged to visit our region

The Garden Route and Klein Karoo Regional Tourism office hereby confirms and assures the travel trade, business interests, government and the public that we are open for business. Communities in and around Knysna, George and Hessequa area have been affected by devastating wildfires, but we confirm that the situation is under control. Humanitarian work has commenced in all the affected areas and displaced families are being well looked after.
 
All the towns in the region are fully functional and ready to assist with tour groups and visitors to the areas.
 
For more information about things to do in each town, please contact the following Local Tourism Offices:
 
Knysna Tourism 044 382 5510
Mossel Bay Tourism 044 619 2202
George Tourism 044 801 9295
Plettenberg Bay Tourism 044 533 4065
Ladismith Tourism 028 551 1378
Oudtshoorn Tourism 044 279 2532
Hessequa Tourism 028 713 7829
Calitzdorp Tourism 044 213 3775
 
To see what the Garden Route & Klein Karoo has on offer, visit: www.facebook.com/grandkk
 
For official communication about wildfires in the region, “like” the following page: www.facebook.com/gardenroutedm