Cape Town fires down, but affected informal dwellings on the rise

2019-08-29 07:14


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The number of informal dwellings affected by fires within the City of Cape Town has increased in 2018/2019 even though residential fires, both formal and informal, have declined.

On Wednesday, the City's safety and security department released the fire statics for the past year in Gugulethu.

The mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, noted the statistics had "showed an encouraging decline in most categories for the last year".

Smith said he was encouraged by the decline in the number of residential fires, both formal and informal. 

The number of fatalities related to fires also "dropped 29% year-on-year", according to him.

The City recorded 1 617 fires in informal dwellings, however, 4 918 structures were affected as a result, up from 4 334 the previous year.

Smith listed a number of factors for this, including the fact that informal dwellings were built close to one another.

"While the fire and rescue service advocates that informal structures are built at least 3m apart to slow down the spread of fires, this does not happen in many instances. 

"It also makes it more difficult for firefighters to get to the source of a fire and contain its spread," said Smith.

He bemoaned the building of informal dwellings wherever people saw fit to do so, saying this meant there were no exact locations to identify an area should a fire break out.

"Add to that, the narrow access routes, lack of street names or exact locations particularly in the case of new settlements, allows one to develop an understanding of the difficulties firefighters face."

Significant statistics:

  • A 14% drop in the number of special service calls (motor vehicle accidents, hazardous materials, rescues, etc.);
  • A 1.4% drop in the number of informal settlement fires;
  • A 13.5% increase in the number of informal dwellings affected;
  • A 5.5% reduction in the number of formal residential fires;
  • A 29% reduction in the number of fire fatalities;
  • An increase of 8.7% in vegetation fires

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