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20 June 2023 Media Release: 8 000 Hectares more veld and mountain fires burned over the past 12-months

Media Release: 8 000 Hectares more veld and mountain fires burned over the past 12-months

20 June 2023

Throughout the past municipal calendar year, spanning from July 2022 to June 2023, the Garden Route district, including Hessequa, Mossel Bay, George, Knysna, Bitou, Oudtshoorn, and Kannaland, has witnessed several wildfires. Deon Stoffels, the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) Chief Fire Officer, says a staggering 82 fires, including several wildfires, have ravaged the region since July 2022, leaving 23,848 hectares of land burned. Comparatively, although the previous year saw three additional wildfires between July 2021 and June 2022, the extent of the damage was slightly lower, with approximately 14,500 hectares consumed.

“It remains a priority for us to continue to address this concerning trend and prioritise fire management and prevention strategies to safeguard communities,” said Stoffels.

The major areas most affected by the past year’s wildfires included the Rooiberg Mountains in Van Wyksdorp, the Swartberg Mountains in Oudtshoorn, and Molenrivier (N9 South) in the George area. The primary cause of these wildfires was due to lightning strikes, which are typically prevalent during the January and February months.

As a wildfire blazed through the Molen River in January 2023, a thick blanket of smoke enveloped the air.

Stoffels said: “On one particular day, we experienced seven (7) lightning-induced wildfires”. He says firefighters swiftly responded to this critical situation by deploying rapid aerial firefighting techniques, successfully suppressing three of these fires. “We were able to suppress the remaining wildfires through a combination of ground and aerial firefighting.”

Deon also pointed to November 2022, when a significant fire outbreak occurred in the Hessequa municipal area. “This incident was triggered by a permitted fire that escalated beyond control.”

“During this time of the year, late October and November, the Hessequa area is prone to experience gusty and rapidly changing winds, which proved to be a challenge GRDM firefighters have since learned from.”


The top priority of GRDM’s Fire and Rescue Services Unit remains to implement proactive and preventative fire management strategies. Public education initiatives are central to this, which forms part of their risk reduction measures.

According to Stoffels, the Fire Danger Index, provided by the South African Weather Services, plays a crucial role in assessing risks and guiding planning and preparation efforts.

“We urge all landowners to consult with the Local and District Fire Services, as well as the Fire Protection Association, to obtain expert advice on reducing fire risks,” said Stoffels. “Adequate measures such as maintaining fire breaks, clearing alien vegetation, and ensuring safe prescribed burning practices are essential components of fire prevention.”

Regarding the implementation of Fire Breaks, the District is actively seeking funding to establish and maintain them on its properties. However, all Local Municipal Areas already have Fire Management Systems, including Permitted Burning Systems, aimed at reducing risks and supporting ecological and agricultural objectives.

GRDM places significant emphasis on enhancing its rapid response capabilities, including the deployment of aerial firefighting resources. This method has proven highly effective in dealing with remote and inaccessible wildfires. The measures prevent such incidents from escalating into large-scale and destructive events.

An important number to save: The emergency call centre of GRDM is linked to all the emergency call centres of the region and operates 24/7, 365 days a year – dial 044 805 5071 to report any fire incident.

Feature image caption: In November 2022, a devastating wildfire swept through the Spuithoek area, leaving a trail of destruction across dozens of hectares.


25 August 2021 Impact Based Warning: Veld Fire Conditions

Impact Based Warning – Veld Fire Conditions

The Cape Town Weather Office has issued a Veld Fire Impact Based Warning for the Western Cape and Namaqua Region of the Northern Cape valid for 26 August 2021, as follows:

Report any weather related incidents to the Garden Route Disaster Management Centre at 044 805 5071.


Legal notice:
“This warning from SA Weather Service must be communicated as received and may not be altered under any circumstance.
It must be forwarded or communicated in its entirety and no portion hereof may be replicated or copied and distributed.”

30 April 2021 Media Release: Adaptive Capacity Facility Climate Resilient Human Settlements Pilot Programme to be project managed by the GRDM

Media Release: Adaptive Capacity Facility Climate Resilient Human Settlements Pilot Programme to be project managed by the GRDM

For immediate release
30 April 2021

Adaptive Capacity Facility Climate Resilient Human Settlements Pilot Programme to be project managed by the GRDM

The Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) is one of three (3) district municipalities that were selected to be the beneficiaries of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) Adaptive Capacity Facility (ACF): Climate Resilient Human Settlements Pilot Programme. The Government of Flanders will fund this programme through its Country Strategy Paper (CSPIII) over five years. The funds will mainly be used to implement climate change adaptation projects that build human adaptive capacity.

The programme intends to select projects across three (3) typologies. These include urban settlements, peri-urban settlements, and rural settlements. These settlement typologies fall under the banner of “testing climate-resilient human settlements”.

After an extensive two-day site visit investigation by DEFF from 22 – 26 March 2021, the high fire risks within the GRDM and the threat of these fire risks to vulnerable communities were identified as a focus area for a project that will be funded as part of the programme.

The first co-creation workshop (one of three planned workshops) was arranged in Knysna to workshop possible fire resilient projects and challenges. The workshop included all the key stakeholders within the project area and the participation of some vulnerable community leaders/members.

The day before the workshop, on 23 March 2021, DEFF’s videographer visited some key fire risk areas in the Garden Route to document the conditions and challenges on the ground.

At the workshop, various presenters provided information on the project focus areas, fire risks and impacts within the GRDM, as well as current and future climatic changes and predictions on what this will mean for the fire risks to vulnerable communities going forward.

The workshop also included conveying the traumatic experiences of stakeholders such as the authorities and vulnerable community members during the 2017/18 Knysna/Plettenberg Bay fires.

Second Workshop – 23 April 2021

From 21 to 23 April 2021, the GRDM, DEFF/ACF and critical stakeholders had a fruitful second workshop to have more detailed discussions on priority interventions to be unpacked into projects. The workshop outcomes included the following priority intervention categories:

  • Ecosystem-based fuel load management: To include block burning, fire breaks, alien clearing as well as an initial follow-up; fire-scaping; access /escape route management;
  • Early fire detection and monitoring: cameras and towers;
  • Training: Development of a training academy, train the trainer, “training – to be wildfire ready”, basic land management principles; workshops on legislative requirements.

During the two workshop engagements, all the stakeholders agreed upon the following project criteria. The GRDM will lead the project, and although the initial idea was that the interventions would be geographically focused in the Knysna area, particular emphasis will be on the areas identified as high-risk areas in the recently completed macro fire risk assessment by the GRDM.

The project will address fire risk from a climate change adaptation perspective. The project interventions must have a robust interface with human settlements (meaning that we need to consider the project interventions’ impacts on the selected human settlements, and we need to take into consideration the needs of that human settlement/s);

The project interventions will be located within an urban setting. This does not mean that the settlements need to be formal dwellings and “high-income” communities; on the contrary, grassroots communities vulnerable urban settlements will be the primary target audience. This means that informal settlements and forest communities with strong links to urban areas will be targeted.



Garden Route Environmental Forum Logo

Garden Route Environmental Forum launches extensive landowner assistance programme

Landowners in the Garden Route District, as well as the environment they live in, has over the past three years suffered tremendously, as a result of a series of severe wildfire disasters which basically burnt over 200 000 hectares to a tinder.

In a joint effort to assist landowners, the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF), a collaborative forum established by the Garden Route District Municipality, launched an extensive landowner assistance programme, aimed at assisting landowners in gathering spatial data on the extent of re-growth of invasive alien plants (IAPs) on their land, and provide technical and herbicide assistance to landowners indicating a willingness to eradicate and control invasive alien plants on their land. The programme is spearheaded by the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) which is the implementing agent for the programme.

According to Cobus Meiring, manager of the GREF Secretariat, and chairperson of SCLI, further objectives of the programme include generating opportunities for regional invasive alien plant control and clearing contractor teams, and empowering landowners in complying with Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) regulations pertaining to the management of IAPs on private land.

In many areas of the western and northern parts of the Garden Route, the crippling drought compounded the effects of the wildfire disasters. In places south of Riversdale, which burnt back in early 2017, the environment only now starts showing signs of vegetation cover.

“As if that is not enough, the vegetation type that makes its appearance first is of the wrong kind, and more often than not consists of dense stands of invasive alien plants, including (and there are many more) Rooikrans, Black Wattle, Blackwood, Long-leaved Wattle, pines of all shape and sizes, Stink Bean, Sesbania, Bluegum and a host of less known varieties such as Pampas Grass and Madeira Vine,” said Meiring.

Government is taking a tough stand on land management, especially invasive alien plant control and eradication.

Following the out-of-control wildfires, authorities are clamping down on landowners allowing their land to become overrun by invasive alien trees and biomass which, if not better managed and controlled, will set the scene for a repeat of the intense 2017 fires.

“However, landowners are in a difficult situation as combating invasive alien plants can be a costly exercise, with relentless and fast re-growth patterns, requiring never-ending commitment and resources from landowners. More often than not, land affected by IAPs are on parcels of land that are not viable from a farming perspective, clustered in areas that are difficult to access on either steep slopes or nestled in deep ravines,” explains Meiring.

“As a first step to better land management and compliance with environmental legislation, governmental officials insist that landowners develop Invasive Alien Plant Control Plans. Complicating matters even further, is that all landowners and estate agents have to make mention of the extent of IAPs on a saleable land as an addendum to a sales agreement.”

GREF will assist participating and qualifying landowners with the compilation of standardised Invasive Alien Plant (IAP) Control Plans, and where applicable, issue herbicide volumes in accordance.

Use of herbicide not ideal, but a crucial tool in managing IAPs on a landscape scale.

Landowners in the Garden Route are serious about living in an environment that is as uncontaminated as possible, and many are against the use of herbicides.

Meiring says the safe use and application of herbicide is imperative to the roll-out of the landowner assistance programme, and participating landowners will be expected to abide by health and safety regulations, and apply herbicide strictly as prescribed by the labels, depending on which type is best suited for the plants they have to treat.

Landowners interested in participating in and registering for the landowner assistance programme can write to: or

** The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction. The forum aims to coordinate regional conservation efforts, serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape and strive to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.


Cobus Meiring: Manager of the GREF Secretariat and Chairperson of SCLI

Cell: 083 626 7619


Urgent Notification: Visitors travelling to the Garden Route and Klein Karoo region


Due to the recent wildfires in and around the Garden Route region, it is recommended that all visitors that are planning to travel to region delay their trip to the next week.  Severe weather conditions have been predicted for Mossel Bay, George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay today and tomorrow.

Smoke due to wildfires affects the visibility and air quality which adversely affect the tourism industry. Not all the fires in the Garden Route have been contained.

Please note the following:

  • Outeniqua pass has been reopened;
  • Montagu Pass remains closed until further notice; and
  • Robinson Pass has reopened following a felled tree near Ruiterbos.

Outeniqua pass currently have teams clearing debris from wildfires and wind. Motorists are advised to proceed with caution and be aware of possible falling of rocks and trees.

We would like to assure all tourists that are planning to travel to the Garden Route and Klein Karoo that once safety is guaranteed that updated communication will be shared.

Please follow all relating news feeds on our social media pages:

For any assistance with the above matter, please contact:

Garden Route District Emergency Call centre at tel: 044 805 5071


Garden Route and Klein Karoo Tourism office  at tel: 044 803 1427

Fly-by in Memory of WOF Firefighting Pilot – Nico Heyns

The family of late firebombing pilot Nico Heyns have announced that a fly-by will hosted in Sunday, 28 November, to celebrate his life.

At approximately 16:00 aircraft and helicopters will fly over his farm in Gouna, and proceed South and fly through the Knysna Heads and over town.

Members of the community are also welcome to place flowers outside the Fire Station in Knysna Town in Sunday in memory of Heyns, and those wishing to attend the celebration of Heyn’s life can attend the ceremony at the farm as from 14:30 also on Sunday.

Issued by:  Knysna-Plett Herald

Wildfires in the Eden District

Only 3 fires left in the Eden district:

1. The Crags
2. Waboomskraal
3. Haarlem

The main focus of the Eden DM firefighters is to extinguish the Waboomskraal fire first and then to move on to the mountainous part of Haarlem where the fire is currently active. Unfortunately there’s no sign of rain on the Northern side of the Outeniqua Mountains.

WoF, SANParks, Bitou Municipality and MTO Forestry are fighting the fire in The Crags, Plettenberg Bay