11.05.2016\nEthekwini fire & Rescue personnel busy at work during the fire at the Blue Water hotel in Beachfront. A transformer at the ground floor started the fire. Motshwari Mofokeng
DURBAN - The eThekwini Fire Department has warned pest control companies and property owners of the dangers of using flammable pesticides, after attending two fires which started during fumigation process.

Two house fires injured three people and destroyed property in Durban recently.

Trevor Stevens, eThekwini Fire Department divisional commander, said he attended the two fires that had started during fumigation for wood-borer in the past couple of weeks.

“They spray for wood-borer but the product has a flammable base and, while it does go onto the wood, it also goes into the air, creating a flammable atmosphere in the entire roof,” he said.

He explained that it’s like “spraying thinners in the air” and if there’s an ignition source - like a faulty wire, someone smoking or not using a flame-proof lighting source and even turning on a stove - a fire could start.

“In one case, the guy said he stepped on some wires and they shorted out. In the other case, the whole roof was blown off,” said Stevens.

There’s nowhere to run, added Stevens, if the fire is ignited in the roof “you’re trapped. Precautions must be taken, you must get intrinsically safe equipment and treatment should be preferably painted on and not sprayed on,” he said.

Theunis van der Vyver, president of the South African Pest Control Association (Sapca) said the process used to treat wood-borer was often abused or treatments were not fully recognised for 100% clearance of insects.

Van der Vyver said fumigation with methyl bromide is the best treatment because the gas kills all stages of life. However, it is a costly treatment.

“Many operators opt for the cheaper treatment whereby the timbers are drilled and injected with a preservative CTX 108.

“This product is solvent based and it is very flammable. A lot of precautions are needed when applying it,” he said.

The proper procedure, said Van der Vyver, is for all pipes or tubes to be taped closed - where electrical wiring passes to switches and light fittings.

He said a fire extinguisher must be at hand - close to the place of work, adding that pest control companies should inform their clients of the risks.

“Clients or homeowners need to inform their insurance company of the pending work,” he said.