Firefighters have responded to 120 fewer incidents than last year, but ‘more can be done’. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - With winter almost at an end, the number of fires, particularly in informal settlements, have shown a marked decrease compared to last year.

However the number of deaths have increased with 189 since the beginning of this year and 129 deaths for the whole of last year.

Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said firefighters responded to 120 fewer incidents in 2019 compared to 2018, which represented a drop of 7.5%.

Carelse said in at least five informal settlements fire fatalities were recorded in July this year, compared to seven over the same period last year.

Since the start of the year, the provincial health department’s forensic pathology services said it had recorded 189 deaths caused by burn wounds.

In July last year, the City’s Fire and Rescue Service responded to a total of 1550 incidents. Of these, 850 were special service calls such as motor vehicle accidents, trauma incidents and rescue efforts. The other 672 were fire calls.

However, last month the service responded to 1466 incidents, of which special service incidents were 711 and fire calls totalled 586.

According to the deputy director of communications at the Western Cape Health Department, Mark van der Heever, Eerste River Hospital treated 10 patients with burn wounds last year while Tygerberg Hospital treated 242 patients with burn wounds.

Since January 2019, Eerste River Hospital had treated 33 patients with burn wounds and Tygerberg Hospital had treated 93 patients.

Marikana ward 35 councillor Mboniswa Chita said of the 13 shack fire incidents they had recorded since the start of the year, only four victims died as a result.

The most recent fire in Marikana was on Saturday night, and a charred body of an adult man was found during a search.

Chita said most shack fire causes were unknown, but said they suspected most of these fires were caused by illegal connections, especially because they erupted at night, when the electricity was more powerful.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said too many fires were still caused by human error or negligence, and the increase in heat sources during the winter made things more challenging.

“There’s always a risk of fire, whether in informal settlements or formal residential areas. Fire prevention requires a collective effort,” he said.

“The City works continuously to increase its level of education and awareness in communities. Furthermore, we are building more fire stations and other resources to bulk up our response when fires happen.

“We also call on corporates to come to the table and assist with our smoke detector roll-out,” he added.

Senior communications manager at Sassa Western Cape, Shivani Wahab, said they spent R865300 on immediate relief for the 2019/2020 financial year for victims of fire.


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Cape Argus