A South African boatyard finally returned to full production this week after acting as an emergency relief centre for victims of a massive wildfire affecting the southern Cape.

James Turner, co-director of Knynsa-based Vision Yachts and Fusion Power Boats, said the fire this week briefly threatened his warehouse facility before being extinguished. He agreed to let local welfare groups use his Vision Yachts warehouse as a relief centre for volunteers handling emergency provisions for affected residents.

The fire, which started three weeks ago, destroyed over 400 houses in the Garden Route town as well as thousands of hectares of plantation and coastal forest. It was fuelled by an unprecedented ‘berg wind’ gusting at over 100km/h.

“It was really hectic – just yesterday the fire flared up about 100 metres away from the factory,” said Turner, who lost some of his personal possessions at his small holding residence outside town. “On my property alone I put out over 90 fires,” he said, adding that some of his workers lost their entire homes in the blaze.

“It has been very disruptive trying to keep production going as per normal. We closed down for five days and it has taken about three weeks to come back to full production,” he said.

“A couple of local churches had organised a lot of relief supplies but didn't have warehouses. In one of our warehouses we only had one boat currently in production, so I just said 'bring it',” Turner said.

Knysna is a regional boatbuilding hub, home to some of the premier leisure boat builders including the Knysna Yacht Company and Harvey Yachts. The area is also a popular tourist destination, partly because of its pristine forest.

Climate scientists predict man-made climate change will increase the number of 'fire-days' across much of the southern African region.