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With the warmer months drawing to a close, the City’s Fire and Rescue Service has noticed a drop in the number of wildfires compared to previous years, but structural fires remain a concern. Read more below:

The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service is cautiously optimistic about closing out the warmer months with significantly fewer wildfires.

The period between November and April usually sees an increase in the number of vegetation fires. For the past three years, Cape Town’s firefighters have been kept on their toes attending to thousands of wildfires, including at least one major incident that spanned several days.

There have been no major veld fires this year (up to the end of February) which has contributed to the drop in the number of incidents, as outlined below:

YEAR TOTAL FIRES BUSH/GRASS FIRES
2015/16 8 037 6 471
2016/17 8 173 6 697
2017/18 7 235 5 670

‘We can’t be certain about the reasons behind the drop, although the mild summer we’ve experienced could be a contributing factor. Whatever the reasons, we definitely welcome it especially considering that we are in the midst of a drought crisis. The warmer months are a drain on our resources and in recent years we have very often found ourselves in a Code Red situation, meaning that we were one incident away from completely exhausting our available resources. This is the first year since early 2016 that we haven’t reached that critical point,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.

In terms of structural fires, there were increases in a number of categories, as tabled below:

YEAR FORMAL RESIDENCE INFORMAL RESIDENCE COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIAL STORAGE FATALITIES
2015/16 511 542 116 27 10 37
2016/17 478 526 115 34 6 42
2017/18 522 537 135 48 17 47

‘The increase in fires in formal homes and several business categories is of concern because it raises questions about the fire safety measures being implemented, or not, as the case might be, by property owners. The number of fires affecting informal dwellings remains in the same range, but it is disappointing that we are not seeing a bigger drop. In terms of residential fires, the last few months have been characterized by incidents affecting only a single dwelling.

We also continue to see incidents where communities sabotage firefighters in the execution of their duties by stoning vehicles or cutting hoses. Such actions are counterproductive and in fact only put more innocent lives at risk. I therefore appeal to communities to support the work of our firefighters and to report those who willfully obstruct their attempts to save lives and property,’ added Alderman Smith.

The City has a long-running fire safety awareness and education campaign that is hosted by the Fire and Rescue Service and the Disaster Risk Management Centre. The two departments conduct nearly a thousand sessions every year in informal settlements, at libraries, old age homes, Early Childhood Development Centres, schools and other institutions of learning and at special events.

Residents are reminded to call 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone at the first sign of a fire, but to also familiarize themselves with the City’s comprehensive list of fire safety tips (and general community safety tips), available here: http://www.capetown.gov.za/local%20and%20communities/community-health-and-safety/natural-disasters-in-the-community/disaster-emergencies-in-the-community

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