Knysna experience will stay with them forever

The fires caused devastation in a number of areas in Knysna.

They would go back in a minute as it was the most humbling and, at the same time, exciting experience of their lives.

These are the sentiments of Industries East-based Interwaste’s four intrepid employees who flew to Knysna, last Saturday morning, to help battle the raging fires.

Kyle Edwards (H:H facilities manager), Juan Dorfling (SHEQ manager) and Chase Evans (SHEQ officer) are all qualified industrial firefighters, with Level 3 first aid qualifications, while Natasha Willcocks (senior marketing coordinator) has Level 3 first aid qualifications.

Interwaste, located in Industries East, sent an intrepid team of four to help with firefighting and first aid in Knysna. The team are, back, (from left), Chase Evans, Juan Dorfling and Kyle Edwards. Front: Natasha Willcocks.

“The people had nothing yet they were willing to give what they could to the firefighters battling the blazes,” said Natasha.

“It was truly the most humbling experience of our lives.”

The idea to go and help was Kyle’s and the other three jumped on board with it immediately as they all knew this was an opportunity for them to utilise the skills they had trained for, and they could make a difference and do some good.

The team, who had their flights sponsored by Travel by Arrangement, arrived at the airport in George at 8.30am and just as they were getting ready to disembark, they were asked to wait.

“The pilot came and said a prayer for us and wished us well,” said Natasha.

They arrived in fire-ravaged Knysna at about 10am.

“As we were driving into Knysna, the N2 highway after Sedgefield had been closed as the smoke was so bad.

“But we had notified disaster management in Knysna about our arrival and were able to travel straight through,” said Natasha.

Kyle said, “When you see the size of the flames, the reality of what you are getting into really sinks in.

“As soon as we saw the flames everyone went silent.”

Immediately upon their arrival they were put to work and sent to scout out where the fires were.

However, before reaching their first destination they were called back to assist in Brenton On Sea to help evacuate the area.“We watched as a four-bedroom house was destroyed in just 15 minutes,” said Kyle.

Kyle also had an incredibly frightening experience when he and another firefighter were cornered by fire in the back of a house they were working in.

“Your heart just sinks,” said Kyle.

“But we stuck together and got through it.”

The team from Interwaste was greeted by blazing fires upon their arrival in Knysna, last Saturday.

The team said they were lucky they met a man named Riaan Louw, from the Inyathi Guest House, who offered them accommodation during their stay where they could rest when they got the chance.

“It was amazing how the whole community, as well as people from all over the country, came together to help,” said Juan.

“Although it was emotionally and physically draining, we had each other’s backs and all worked together, utilising everyone’s specific strengths,” Natasha said.

Kyle added, “We got stuck in, there were scary times but also good times and we relied on each other.”

The team feels that in their small way they did make a difference in Knysna and in a few incidences they know that if they hadn’t been there working, fires would have spread.

Juan said, “Initially it didn’t feel like we did much, but when you look back we did make a big impact.”

All agree they would definitely do something of this nature again and Natasha has been inspired to train to become a firefighter.

“We are grateful we were given this opportunity to help where it was needed most,” said Natasha.

Related articles:

Local company sends skilled personnel to assist in Knysna

URGENT: Help #Knysna fire relief efforts by bringing donations to the GCN’s office

Community opens their hearts to Knysna fire victims


Have a story?

Contact the newsroom by emailing: Melissa Hart (Editor) germistoncitynews@caxton.co.za, Leigh Hodgson (journalist) leighh@caxton.co.za or Puleng Sekabate pulengs@caxton.co.za.

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Catch-up on more local news with our sister newspapers Bedfordview Edenvale News, Alberton Record and Kempton Express.

Melissa Hart

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