7 killed in over 1 000 fires this month

Seven people died and 900 others were affected in over 1 000 fires in Cape Town since the beginning of November, the city has said.

“More than half of the incidents involved informal structures, resulting in the destruction of nearly 300 homes,” mayoral committee member Alderman JP Smith said today.

Of the more than 1 000 fires in the city in the first two and a half weeks of November, 956 were vegetation fires and 121 were structural fires.

“That is more than double the number of vegetation fires reported during the same period last November,” said Smith.

Yesterday, three fire engines, two helicopters and 25 ground crew worked towards extinguishing a fire on a mountain above Glencairn Heights in Cape Town.

Fire and rescue services spokesperson Sharon Bosch said the fire had destroyed extensive vegetation but no properties were in danger.

The increase of fires had been attributed to the “fire season”, which “sees an increase in the number of fires reported between November and March as a result of the higher temperatures and sometimes gale-force winds”.

The current weather conditions in Cape Town had also contributed to the increase in fires.

“Last year, we were still experiencing floods in November. This year, the weather has been drier but it has also been extremely windy and, of course, these conditions are conducive to the spread of fires,” said Smith.

With vegetation fires, Smith said it was suspected that wood-cutters or bush dwellers may be to blame, while combustible items such as cigarettes, candles and stoves left unattended could have attributed towards the structural fires.

“That is why it is so crucial that residents manage open flames properly and discard cigarette butts in a responsible manner. A small spark is all it takes to set off a blaze,” said Smith.

“We have also seen a number of incidents where structures are deliberately set alight due to personal squabbles, often with devastating consequences.”

Smith urged people to work with the city to prevent fires.

“The city has done a great deal to minimise the risk of fires, because ultimately it is better to avoid fires.”

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