Helicopters water bomb vegetation along mountain slopes near Scarborough this week.Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA
WHEN Dave Landshut left Seattle in America for a holiday in Cape Town nine years ago, he had no idea the city had fire-prone, poor communities like Masiphumelele.

The area had just been ravaged by one of the biggest fires to hit the city when Landshut arrived to live close by.

He quickly switched from holiday to firefighting mode and has not looked back.

Landshut has partnered with Hout Bay resident Mark Algae to build shacks with insulating barriers and also double-storey shacks for the area’s superblocking process - when the city rebuilds equal- sized shacks, a one-size-fits-all option after a community is ravaged by a fire.

The Thermotrap project, Algae’s brainchild, protects shacks from fires with newspaper, hessian fibre, cement and glue. Thermotrap can also decrease the heat by 12ºC inside the shack.

Landshut believes his free idea, the iThemba project, is in tune with the city’s superblocking of the area and will assist the poor.

“The double-storey shack is going to be a big thing in Masiphumelele, especially now that it’s fire season, until the city finds land to build,” Landshut said.

“We’re getting a lot of requests to build this and we do it free of charge. I do this from the kindness of my heart as a missionary.

“When I came here, I never knew I would be confronted by such a challenge. It was my first time seeing a furnace as big as that in Masi nine years ago.”

Landshut said when he landed in Cape Town, he had realised many local residents were unskilled, so he started his iThemba project, which will provide building skills.

He is training two men from Masiphumelele. Algae said: “My initial plan is to roll this out through Dave. We are looking to make the living conditions of the poor in Masi better; we are reducing the heat inside their shacks."

Algae, who first presented his idea at the World Design Capital in Stellenbosch in 2014, said they used data loggers to test the project.

* See www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u39JfLHsfE to view how the Thermotrap project is built.