News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday September 19th 2019

City launches shack fire awareness drive


Shack fires such as this are on the decrease, says City.

In a effort to prevent deaths caused by shack fires, which are a particular danger in winter when people living in unelectrified shacks use paraffin heaters for warmth, the City of Cape Town launched the ‘Winter Wise, your Safety First’ safety awareness campaign in Atlantis on Friday.

The campaign, which kicked off in the settlement of Witsands, also highlights the danger of trying to prepare food on paraffin stoves, especially after returning home from the shebeen.

Purchasing a small fire extinguisher and having an escape plan in case of fire were elements of the campaign.

At the launch Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Jean Pierre Smith, told the 200 gathered residents that the City’s efforts to reduce deaths caused by shack fires in informal settlements were bearing fruit as evidenced in the reduction of the fatality rate.

In 2009 the fire fatality rate for every 100 000 residents was 7.9%. This was reduced to 4.3% in 2010.

“That’s a substantial reduction despite having more informal settlements,” said Smith.

He said while deaths caused by shack fires in informal settlement have decreased, it was still worrisome that the City’s efforts to reduce shack fires were not as effective for backyard dwellings as they were not accessible to fire fighters.

“Fewer people are dying in shack fires in informal settlements but still, too many people are dying in backyard structures,” he said.

He said the reduction of the fatality rate in informal settlement shack fires was partly due to the City adding an extra 35 fire stations and purchasing 20 more fire engines, as well as redeveloping the fire stations that were dysfunctional.

Additionally R200 million worth of fire fighting equipment had been rolled out since 2006 and this financial year, R500m was on the budget to buy fire extinguishers to be distributed in the informal settlements.

“From the service side we’re able to reduce fire fatality rate…this year fires in informal settlements are fewer. Our education measures are yielding results and we want to focus more on education awareness,” he said.

The City has also started rearranging compacted shacks in informal settlements to create space for roads to make the informal settlements easily accessible.

“The problem of re-blocking is to convince the residents to allow us (City) do it,” he said.

Catholic Welfare and Development (CWD) crisis relief programme manager Nontsikelelo Dwangu warned residents of the dangers of connecting electricity illegally and urged them to be responsible when using appliances as the most of the people who suffered during shack fires were children, and people living with disabilities.

“Parents need to ensure that children are being supervised at all times. It’s going to be a long winter holiday. Children are going to be home for a long time. Prevention is better than cure,” said Phumzile Nteyi a spokesperson for Paraffin Safety Southern Africa. — Peter Luhanga

Tags: ‘Winter Wise, atlantis, Catholic Welfare and Development (CWD), Jean Pierre Smith, Nontsikelelo Dwangu, paraffin heaters, Paraffin Safety Southern Africa, Phumzile Nteyi, Shack fires, Witsands, your Safety First’

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