During winter, people living in informal settlements use all sorts of measures to warm themselves.
Heating appliances and paraffin appliances can, however, be very dangerous if not used correctly, said Tshwane emergency services spokesperson Johan Pieterse.
He said due to informal dwellings being usually built close to each other, the risk of a fire spreading and the resulting loss of life during a fire could be high.
“Candles, matches and lighters can also be dangerous if special care is not taken when they are used.
“Children must be educated on the dangers of fire and taught not to play with any item that creates an open flame,” he said.
Pieterse offered some safety hints and tips to prevent shack fires:
– Never cook near materials that can ignite and start a fire.
– Make sure that all candles are placed in a safe, non-combustible candle-holder away from material that can burn.
– Be aware of the dangers of illegal and faulty electrical connections. Any electrical connection must be done by an accredited electrician.
– Make sure cigarettes are put out completely.
– Keep a bucket with water handy to extinguish small fires, because fire spreads rapidly.
– Always have a bucket of sand nearby when using a paraffin appliance. Water will not put out a paraffin fire. In fact, it will make matters worse by spreading the flames. Paraffin fires can only be extinguished using sand or a fire extinguisher.
– Build dwellings a good distance (at least three metres) apart to prevent fires from spreading rapidly. The open space between dwellings must be kept clean.
– Keep roads and access to dwellings clear at all times so that emergency vehicles have unobstructed access.
– Do not block roads with possessions when there is a fire.
– Do not obstruct or hinder emergency personnel when they attend to incidents, as they are there to save lives and prevent the destruction of property by fire.
– All open fires must be extinguished before you leave the area or go to sleep.
– Ensure that there is enough ventilation when food is being cooked on open flames inside your dwelling.
– Take special care when using gas appliances to cook food. The cylinders must be in a good condition and tested regularly for any leaks that might cause a fire and or an explosion.
Pieterse urged residents to identify a group of people in the community to help with evacuation, basic firefighting and order in case of fire.
Alternatively, ask for the training of a community emergency response team by emailing Tebogo Maake at [email protected], or call him on 012-358-6806.
In a case of emergency, residents can phone 012-310-6300 or 012-310-6400
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