Spike in fire-related incidents

2017-04-12 14:27
A fire that razed a shop in Howick in the early hours of last Friday.

A fire that razed a shop in Howick in the early hours of last Friday. (Supplied)

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The Msunduzi fire department is on high alert following a spike in the number of fires they attended last week, most of which have been blamed on human error.

Last week alone, the fire department responded to 50 fire and rescue incidents. These included fires involving buildings, grass and bush fires, and transport-related fires that involved motor vehicle collisions and rescues.

According to the department, the common causes of reported fire incidents range from veld fires being started by discarded cigarettes or matches, children playing with matches, faulty electrical installations or electrical overloads in buildings, open flames, and suspected arson.

Of the incidents the fire department attended last week, 26 were grass/bush fires, 13 building fires — five of which involved informal structures, six were vehicle collisions, and five were fires involving vehicles.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said despite the unexpectedly high number of fire incidents recorded last week, there was no significant damage to property or fatalities.

However, she added that each loss from a fire-related incident leaves behind a significant financial implication for whoever is affected.

Fire Department offers safety tips

As the fire season takes hold, the fire department has urged residents to take precautionary measures to stay safe.

The safety tips included:


Portable electric heaters, while seemingly harmless, are responsible for many fires each year, some resulting in loss of life and or property.

These heaters are not designed for extended periods of use.

Keep them at least 50 cm from anything that could burn.

Make sure you do not leave them unattended or leave them on while you are asleep.


Children should be supervised at all times and not be allowed to play with matches.

Often they take matches from home and play with them either after school on their way home, setting fire to open veld spaces, or play with them at home under the bedsheets or behind closed doors.


Veld fires spread rapidly due to grass and bush overgrowth in open spaces or between neighbouring properties, so it is important to cut fire breaks between your property and your neighbour, or even around your fence to prevent the uncontrolled spread of fire to your property and to protect your life and assets.


Candle fires account for a large percentage of fires in informal settlements and can result in serious injuries and large scale fatalities.

Never leave a burning candle unattended, or near something that can catch fire.

Keep them out of reach of children.

LPG is very hazardous and badly fitted and poorly serviced appliances can cause gas safety risks such as gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The lack of adequate ventilation in an area where gas is used could lead to suffocation or asphyxiation.

If you detect a leak from gas bottles immediately turn off the gas burner and remove the bottle outside into a well-ventilated area.


Paraffin is also used for cooking and heating. Paraffin safety is also of key importance.

Always use a childproof paraffin safety cap on your paraffin bottle and keep paraffin and matches away from children.

When you pour paraffin into a lamp or stove, use a funnel and not a cup.

Do not throw water onto a fire involving paraffin as you run the risk of spreading the paraffin and hence spreading the fire.

Rather use dry sand to extinguish the fire or use a fire extinguisher.

For both liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and paraffin heating or cooking appliances, always leave a window open when in use to let out the fumes.

Always keep stoves and lamps on a flat surface so they won’t fall and start a fire. Avoid buying cheap, unapproved and illegal and hazardous LPG or paraffin stoves.

Always notify the fire department of any fire in or surrounding your area at 080 003 3911 or 033 845 5911.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fire department

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