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The Western Cape is one of the worst affected veldfire areas in the country where fires are a natural phenomenon during summer. However, too frequent fires may have a negative effect on the biodiversity and ecosystem services such as water production.

All fires start small, but when the weather is hot, dry and windy, a small fire can quickly become a threat to life and property. The Western Cape fire season occurs during the hot dry summer season and both residents and visitors to the province need to be vigilant and careful when dealing with fires or any other burning material.

One of the main reasons for fires is a lack of knowledge. Help us spread the message of safety by being fire aware.

How to prevent and contain fires

At home

In order to prevent fires from starting or spreading, you should:

  • not leave open fires unattended and should use sand to kill the fire,
  • make sure that your home has no illegal electrical connections and that multiplugs are not overloaded, as these can overheat causing sparks and fires,
  • keep the area around your home clear of materials that can start a fire,
  • tell someone who is playing carelessly with fires, matches or lighters to stop,
  • know your emergency numbers to report veldfires in your area immediately

In the outdoors

Please note that when entering a high fire risk area:

  • No open flame or fire may be permitted unless in a demarcated area. These areas are only in the fireplaces provided.
  • You must ensure that a fire is attended at all times.
  • You must ensure that a fire is extinguished properly with water, once you are finished with the fire. No fire may burn through the night.
  • You must ensure that a cigarette is completely extinguished before disposal.

General fire safety

Stop, drop and roll

Should your clothes catch alight, make sure you know the Stop, Drop and Roll method to prevent the fire from spreading to the rest of your body.

You’ll need to:

  • immediately stop what you’re doing if your clothing catches on fire,
  • drop to your knees and lie on your stomach,
  • close your eyes and cover your face with your hands to protect yourself from the flames and from inhaling the smoke,
  • roll onto your back and to your front repeatedly until the fire is out, and
  • remove all your burnt clothing and check to see that it’s still not burning.

General safety tips

A fire needs heat, oxygen and fuel to survive. Without one of these elements the fire will die.

If you do not have access to water or a fire extinguisher in order to put out a fire, you can use other methods such as sand or a wet blanket. If the fire occurs on your kitchen stove, try to smother the fire by placing a lid on top. Never use water to kill an electrical fire. It is also handy to keep a bucket of clean sand ready outside your kitchen door to smother a fire.

Other safety rules you should observe:

  • Keep a well-maintained fire extinguisher in your house and know how to use it.
  • If you have a garden hose, keep it rolled up and ready for use in case of a fire.
  • Where possible, have more than one exit from your house.
  • Have an escape plan, and make sure that your whole family knows the plan.
  • Don’t park in the way of a fire hydrant (and remind your neighbours and visitors to do the same).

Outdoor fire safety tips

  • Open fires are a common cause of uncontrolled fires in the Western Cape. It is a good idea not to start a fire when it is hot, dry and especially not when it’s windy.
  • Check with your local fire department before making fires outside.
  • On certain days recreational fires will be prohibited, as indicated by the daily “fire danger” rating. This rating predicts the expected difficulty involved to put out runaway fires. The higher the rating, the more dangerous the conditions are. The rating is your trigger to act, so to stay safe you need to stay aware of the Fire Danger Rating in your area. During the fire season, the Fire Danger Rating will feature in weather forecasts and be broadcast on radio and TV and published in some newspapers.
  • The South African Weather Service provides a clear indication through its fire danger index map, of areas at risk of veldfires. Areas marked in red (76 to 100%) are extremely dangerous and areas that marked in blue (0 to 20%) are considered safe.

Braai safety tips

  • Children should never be allowed to start a gas or wood braai or play near the braai area.
  • Keep a braai well away from any surrounding vegetation or flammable materials, structures as well as children and pets.
  • Protect yourself by wearing a heavy apron and an oven mitt that fits high up over your forearm.
  • Always wear short sleeve shirts or roll your sleeves up when braaing.
  • Never use a portable braai indoors, besides the danger of causing a fire in your home, it can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Never use a flammable liquid (e.g. petrol, paraffin) to start a braai fire. Only use paper, kindling or store bought fire-lighters.
  • Never use any kind of fuel to re-ignite or build up a fire-this is a dangerous practice.
  • Soak the coals of a dead fire with water before you discard them, as coal can retain heat for long periods of time.
  • If you have a gas braai, always store the gas cylinder outside and make sure that the valve is not leaking by ensuring that it is properly turned off when not in use.
  • Before lighting a gas braai, check all connections with soap bubbles (use a soap and water solution). If bubbles appear at any connection when opening the valve, a qualified LP gas specialist must repair the leak before you continue to use the gas cylinder.

Campfire safety tips

  • Only use designated fire places and facilities in parks and recreation sites – they are designed to contain your fire in a controlled space.
  • Children must never be allowed to make a fire without adult supervision.
  • Never leave a burning or smouldering fire unattended.
  • Never use candles, matches or gas stoves in a tent; it can burn within minutes trapping its occupants inside.
  • Place your tent upwind and well away from a fire.
  • Have a large container of water and a spade handy.
  • When leaving the site or going to sleep, soak the fire with water and stir sand into the ashes or coals until every spark is out. Be careful of the hot steam and splashes when the water comes into contact with the coals.

Volunteer Wildfire Services Open Day

District emergency numbers for reporting fires

  • ALL EMERGENCIES: 112 from a cell phone
  • City of Cape Town: 107 or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone
  • Overberg District Municipality: 028 425 1690
  • West Coast District Municipality: 022 433 8700
  • Eden District Municipality: 044 805 5071
  • Central Karoo District Municipality: 023 414 2603
  • Cape Winelands District Municipality: 021 887 4446

Fire safety resources and articles

Fire podcasts

 

Tips

Be Prepared This Fire Season
  • No open flame or fire may be permitted unless in a demarcated area. These are only in fireplaces provided.
  • Ensure that a fire is attended at all times
  • Ensure that a fire is extinguished properly with water, once you are finished with the fire. No fire may burn through the night.
  • Ensure that a cigarette is completely extinguished before disposal.