When fires sweep through informal settlements, it’s not only the raging flames that cause destruction, but also the lingering smoke that causes further damage after the blaze has been doused – and poses a health hazard.
When residents of Freedom Park informal settlement in Ottery brought their plight to community leader Keith Blake, Mr Blake reached out to Southern Mail.
Even though residents hadn’t been harmed or lost belongings when a nearby field caught fire on Monday January 10, they told Mr Blake how the smoke had affected them – particularly those with respiratory ailments.
Freedom Park resident Susan Hansen who suffers from asthma said she had to grab the baby she was looking after, and run out of the shack.
Ms Hansen feared for her health because there was “smoke everywhere”.
“I already lost my possessions in 2019 during a fire, and I panicked when my house was dark and filled with smoke, making it difficult for me to see what I can save,” she told Southern Mail.
“I managed to grab the IDs and birth certificates.”
Jermaine Carelse, spokesman for the City’s Fire and Rescue Service, confirmed that fire crews from Ottery had attended to a vegetation fire in the area, the cause of which had been undetermined.
Asked how residents could prevent fires or what they could do in case of one, Mr Carelse provided the following information.
Most house fires are caused by lack of thought or concentration. Smoking cigarettes or using matches, lighters, candles, heating appliances and equipment such as electric blankets can all cause fires if not carefully monitored. Many fires are easily preventable if you follow a few basic safety guidelines.
- Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
- Cut candles in half to prevent them falling over – and use a candle holder.
- Do not smoke in bed.
- If you can afford it, keep a fire extinguisher in your home; maintain it annually and learn how to use it.
- Keep a bucket of sand in the kitchen if you don’t have an extinguisher; throwing sand over a small fire, especially oil, can help contain it before it gets out of control.
- Keep a garden hose rolled up and ready in case of fire.
- Where possible, have more than one exit point from your house.
- Make an escape plan that the whole family knows about and can follow.
- Do not park in the way of a fire hydrant