Take precaution and remain fire-safe this summer season

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Safeguard your property against raging fires this season.
Safeguard your property against raging fires this season.
Jamey Gordon/archive

Historically, the looming Western Cape summer fire season, between November and April, is known for higher-than-normal fire risk, and already over the last few weeks fires have been reported in the Helderberg and its surrounds.

Therefore, homeowners, especially those in wildland-urban interface areas with their proximity to flammable vegetation, are urged to play their part to mitigate risks amid an increasing global pattern of destructive wildfires.

According to Global Forest Watch (GFW) fire seasons are becoming more extreme and widespread. Hotter, drier weather caused by climate change and poor land management create conditions favourable for more frequent, larger and higher-intensity wildfires. Its statistics show that in South Africa 7 914 fire alerts were reported between 25 October 2021 and 17 October this year. This is high compared to previous years (going back to 2012). So far in 2022, 41 kha (41 000 ha) of land have been burnt and the most fires recorded in a year were in 2021, when 3,4 Mha (3,4 million hectares) were burnt.

Attie Blaauw, Santam’s head of Personal Lines Underwriting, says the fire season is a real risk, and a present one, at this time of year, and residents need to be alert to the dangers fires can pose to properties and possessions.

“To prevent the loss of lives and property it is vital to improve ways of preventing, managing and extinguishing wildfires. Everyone needs to be aware of the danger of fire during this season.”

The following safety tips are recommended

• Avoid the build-up of materials that can act as fuel for a fire. For example, recycling stations with cardboard boxes, papers and plastic containers should be kept away from dwellings and emptied on a regular basis.

• Smoke detector alarms installed within sections of a property are good additions and can serve as early warning systems.

• Knowing where the fire hydrants are located within and outside of the property can assist the local fire team with speedy connection of the water hoses.

• Having an evacuation plan, which includes knowing exit points, is essential, as is having an emergency firebox of documents should you live in a fire-prone area.

• Always extinguish fires and safely dispose of hot ash, coal and cigarettes.

• Always work in an open, cleared area when working with power tools.

• Ensure all your electrical appliances are correctly wired.

• Keep the area around your home clear of flammable materials.

• Burn rubbish only on cooler days with little or no wind, provided you have a burning permit.

• Never leave an open fire unattended.

• Use fireworks and Chinese lanterns far from areas prone to fire

• Register with the Fire Protection Association for enhanced security; failure to do so may result in a court of law automatically assuming you are guilty of negligence in the event of a liability lawsuit.

Blaauw adds that homeowners should check their insurance policies annually and ensure as many of their household contents as possible are included in them, and the homeowner’s sum insured (the sum that their property or building is insured for) is in line with the current replacement value of their household goods. “Policyholders should also ensure the value of their buildings is adequately reflected,” he said.

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