Winter in the province is burn season, at least as far as the province’s informal settlements are concerned. File Picture: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Winter in the province is burn season, at least as far as the province’s informal settlements are concerned. File Picture: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)

Winter shack fires on the rise in Western Cape

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Jul 3, 2019

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Cape Town - Winter in the province is burn season, at least as far as the province’s informal settlements are concerned.

During the month of June, data from hospitals across the province indicated that 43 patients had been treated for various burn wounds. Mark van der Heever, the deputy director of communications at the Western Cape Health Department, said “it must be noted though that not all sustained burns injuries from fires”.

Across the province last year, more than 120 people died in fires, 26 as a result of candle fires, heating devices and "playing with matches".

According to the Safer Candles Project of Childsafe Cape Town, “there are two main causes of shack fires in South Africa - fallen candles and paraffin-related burns”.

On Sunday, four children and two women died in a fire at Hex Park in Worcester. Breede Valley Municipality deputy fire chief Josephus Pretorius said an informal structure had burned down.

“By the time the first fire engines arrived, the entire structure was fully alight. Unfortunately, six bodies were found, of which two were adults and four were children.”

There were also reports that three people died from burns in separate incidents in Cape Town at the weekend.

The City’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said one of the deaths occurred when informal structures in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, caught alight: “The fire was extinguished just before 10pm. Unfortunately, one adult male sustained fatal burn wounds and the scene was handed over to the SAPS.”

Carelse said the other deaths were in Philippi and Belhar.

James-Brent Styan, the spokesperson for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell, said: “The department has initiated a smoke alarm installation programme for high fire-risk communities. This smoke alarm installation programme has already been proven to be a life-saver.”

He said residents of the province should contact their closest local district municipality or fire station for more information on the availability of these smoke alarms.

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus

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