Forensic investigator says Knysna fires started by lightning strike
David Klatzow’s report into the cause of the Knysna fires differed greatly from the report released last week by Knysna fire chief Clinton Manual.
Manual said the fires were a result of human activity. However‚ Klatzow‚ said the fire was sparked by a lightning strike in an indigenous forest in the Elandskraal area on April 12.
The fire smoldered for several weeks in a portion of the forest until strong winds and hot air eventually fuelled the embers to cause a bigger blaze on June 7‚ according to Klatzow. The forensic investigator said there were several reasons why Manual’s report was incorrect. Among them was that he had misquoted the position of the smoldering fire.
Klatzow also said Manual further misquoted statements from witnesses and was wrong in his notion that smoldering combustion could not have received enough fuel to have develop.
“The other thing is‚ one should never do an investigation where [one is] involved‚” said Klatzow‚ as this would result in a lack of credibility.
Speaking to TimesLIVE after delivering his report‚ Klatzow said it was possible that Manual had been nervous about being in the “firing line” — “But it was a massive fire and he did his best.”
As strong winds fanned the Elandskraal blaze‚ another fire‚ most likely started by accident in the Dam-se-Bos area on the same day‚ had gained power. Klatzow acknowledged that the Mossel Bay fires‚ however‚ were the result of arson.
“These fires were started on purpose. The police refused to investigate the allegations of arson that were lodged with the local AfriForum branch‚” he said. People protesting for houses in the area were found with petrol canisters. Police had confiscated them but when the canisters were later inspected‚ the petrol had “miraculously turned to water”.