Various role players from the fire safety industry, academia and government, have visited the site of the devastating 2017 Knysna fires. They are meeting to discuss ways to prevent a similar incident from occurring around the country.

The 12th Fire Management Symposium is taking place at the Nelson Mandela University’s (NMU) George campus.

Learning from experience, experts are still figuring out how to prevent a repeat of last year’s disaster. “Against the backdrop of the Knysna disaster fire of 2017, there’s a lot of fire managers that want to come and learn, wanted to see some examples and will hopefully go away here with a lot of new creative ideas to also start to manage the risk in the urban interface,” says NMU School of Natural Resource Management Lecturer, Tiaan Pool.

If not for a controlled burn in this area before the fire disaster, the damage to Brenton-on-Sea could have been much worse. But more needs to be done to ensure even less fire risk and destruction.

“Most of the time after a catastrophic event we learn how to be reactive. Instead we should’ve taken some proactive measures to prevent the event from taking place or to reduce the damage it caused,” says NMU Forestry student Heinrich Hechter.

Better cooperation and communication is also needed from the various agencies, not only while battling fires, but also in prevention efforts.

“It must be a unified effort of all involved, from conservation agencies, municipalities, enforcing by-laws on land owners.  It’s a mammoth task but that’s what we need to do,” says Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, Dirk Smit.

Property owners have also been urged to get rid of excess and alien vegetation, which can fuel fires and contribute to more devastation. Click below for more on the story: