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Cape Town tops informal settlement fires statistics for 2021

Cape Town recorded the highest number of informal settlement fires (1 978) in the Western Cape in 2021 by December 20. Fire Rescue Services responded to more than 2 200 informal settlement fires in the province. SUPPLIED

Cape Town recorded the highest number of informal settlement fires (1 978) in the Western Cape in 2021 by December 20. Fire Rescue Services responded to more than 2 200 informal settlement fires in the province. SUPPLIED

Published Jan 2, 2022

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Cape Town - By December 20 Cape Town had recorded the highest number of informal settlement fires in the Western Cape in 2021, as Fire Rescue Services responded to more than 2 200 fires in informal settlements in the province. Cape Town recorded 1 978 fires.

Spokesperson for Fire & Rescue Service Jermaine Carelse said the total of formal residential fires in the City stood at 1 458, while vegetation fires in the City stood at 9 034 from January to December 20 this year.

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The City tested the use of Tekrok C in August as a fire protection product sprayed in the structures to prevent fire from moving from one structure to another. This product is a fireproofing plaster designed to minimise the effects of any fire.

Mayco member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said approximately R1.3 billion was set aside to improve informal settlements and the health of residents by 2024.

“It is in the best interest of all who live in Cape Town that all residents are accommodated in safer, healthier environments,” said Booi.

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The Director of Disaster Management and Fire Rescue Services in the Western Cape, Colin Deiner, said informal settlement fires often led to high numbers of residents displaced from their homes.

Deiner said one fire in January in the Taiwan informal settlement, in Khayelitsha, “destroyed 152 homes and displaced 400 people”.

He said his department, together with its partners, contracted 24 firefighting aircraft for the summer fire season to deal with wildfires in the province.

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“We spend a huge amount of time planning and preparing for our summer wildfire season, and the provincial government spends approximately R20 million per season to contract the resources we need for this purpose,” he said.

The suppression costs of veld fires amounted to more than R2m in the Garden Route District Municipality, said Deon Stoffels, acting chief fire officer in the municipality.

He said the municipality had attended to 79 veld fires and 30 structural fires over the past year.

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“The structure fires included informal housing (shacks) within the George municipal area, as well as the Kannaland municipal Area,” he said.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s Working on Fire (WOF) in the Western Cape assisted in suppressing 116 fires in the past summer fire season, said spokesperson Limakatso Khalianyane.

One of the large fires that the WOF helped to fight this year was the fire that burned through Berrydale in January in which a local firefighter, Melio van Rooy, lost his life.

Another big fire was Boesmanskloof Fire that broke out towards the end of February in the Overberg, which burned through the mountains, and spread to the Cape Winelands District Municipality.

Khalianyane said six WOF aerial resources extinguished fires in areas that were not accessible to ground crews.

Another big fire that WOF responded to was the Table Mountain fire in April that destroyed parts of UCT, the Rhodes Memorial, and other structures.

She said the WOF programme had 23 aerial resources on standby this year, which comprised 10 spotter planes, nine Huey Helicopters, and four Air-Tractor 802 water bombers.

These resources were on standby at the Porterville, Stellenbosch, Newlands, Bredasdorp, Swellendam and Denneoord airbases until April 2022.

The WOF also welcomed a group of 25 firefighters from the Free State on December 20 to strengthen firefighting efforts on the West Coast and neighbouring areas during the fire season.

The province has 650 WOF ground crew firefighters.

Weekend Argus

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