7 June 2017
Eden District, Garden Route, South Africa
On June 7th around one third of the land within the RFMU was overrun by a fire that jumped the Goukamma river on its western boundary. Within a very short while, more than 30 structures in the southern sector of the FMU – homes, holiday units & businesses - were destroyed, and any number damaged. The majority of this damage was concentrated on and above the slopes overlooking the lagoon as the head of the fire blew up the reverse slope from Blackwaters and then over the road and down to the lagoon, before jumping the Knysna river.
This intial burn destroyed power and phone lines leading north, and also took out 2 of the 3 cell service providers. The road itself was subsequently blocked in several places from mid-afternoon for around 12 hours, leaving the northern sector isolated without power and usual telecoms for some time.
By nightfall the slower-moving flank of the fire began to approach the northern sector along a broad front, marking the start of an epic battle to keep it away from homes and infrastructure in Highway West, Mooibos-Maradadi, Phantom Pass and Homtini. This was to last for several days until first aerial support and then mop-up crews finally arrived to deal with the Mooibos front. The main residence on Quarrywood Farm was lost on the first day, but all others were eventually spared. There was significant damage to grazing and infrastructure – fences, sheds, water & feed stations - across a wide area, though almost all livestock was evacuated in time.
5 ponies on the Rademeyer property were released onto the N2. Sadly, only one has been recovered alive.
It should be mentioned while FPA members formed the core of the fire units, there were a significant number of non-members who pitched to assist where possible, including a number of comparative strangers to the area.
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