29/05/2012. Fire broke out at Woodlane Village in Garsfontein were a number of shacks were burnt to the ground. Picture: Masi Losi

As the winter chill sets in, people are turning increasingly to gas stoves and heaters to keep warm, which means the fire hazard increases with the severity of the weather.

More than 36 people had to brave on Tuesday night’s cold weather after flames engulfed eight shacks in Woodlane Village.

It is suspected that one of the shack owners left a paraffin stove burning and that this caused the fire.

Because of the lack of space in the settlement, shacks are built close to each other, making it easy for fires to spread.

Colin Dredge, from Tswelopele, a poverty alleviation and community development organisation, said efforts had been made to convey the message to residents that they should not build homes so close to each other.

“We’ve been trying to teach residents to leave a space of at least two metres between houses,” he said.

“We also told residents to keep at least one bucket of water in the house in case of fire so that they could put it out.”

No one was injured in the blaze, but one man lost the beloved motorbike he had bought recently.

The bike was destroyed. Owner Shingitai Chauke sat sobbing as he stared at what remained of his shack and bike.

“My motorbike is gone, I don’t know what I am going to do now.”

Another resident said he had moved his possessions when he saw the fire spread. “I quickly moved my stuff outside, fearing that the fire might spread to my place,” he said.

Other residents looked in disbelief at the ash that was all that was left of their neighbours’ shacks.

Dredge said Tswelopele would appeal to churches to provide materials so people could rebuild their houses, as well as blankets and clothing.

“We will also give them food for the night. We don’t want the children to get cold or sick, so we will assist where we can,” said Dredge.

Pretoria News