Recent cold weather has again highlighted the need for fire safety at home as the George Fire Department responded to an increasing number of residential fires over the past weeks.
George Fire Chief Neels Barnard said winter months were traditionally the busiest time for residential fires as people tried to stay warm in cold weather. “The past weekend was a case in point – six informal structures burned to the ground leaving 20 people homeless in three separate fires in Blanco, Conville and Thembalethu.
“While the causes of house fires are not always straight-forward to determine, they generally have in common unsafe practices including overloading electrical plugs, falling asleep with burning cigarettes or taking a drum or tin fire indoors. Fires in formal residences are often associated with newly installed fireplaces that had not been sufficiently insulated and new or neglected gas installations,” said Mr Barnard.
Vegetation fires in winter are often associated with homeless people making open fires to keep warm when sleeping outside. While not necessarily the cause of the past weekend’s fires, the department responded to five vegetation fires during this time.
When rain and snow accompany the cold, motor vehicle accidents increase, which are also attended by the fire department. George Fire and Rescue responded to 10 motor vehicle accidents this past weekend.
The above factors are often worsened by alcohol abuse and there is a correlation between the number of callouts on Fridays and at the end of the month when people have been paid wages and salaries.
“George Municipality Fire and Rescue appeals to everyone to take extra care when working with fire and electricity, to be responsible and fire-conscious at all times – your life and property are at stake,” said Mr Barnard.
WINTER FIRE SAFETY TIPS
Do not overload electrical connections and plugs, use the plug for what it was made for.
Do not override the safety switch on your electrical board to avoid the electricity kicking out when you overload plugs.
Monitor plugs and check that they do not become hot.
Pull out cellphone and other chargers when you are not using them.
Do not carry drum and tin fires indoors.
Do not get into bed with a cigarette.
Put the electrical heater off before you fall asleep.
If you install a fireplace, use a reputable builder or installer and monitor new installations when in use. Have your fireplace and chimney serviced regularly.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE
Stay low and under the smoke.
Make alarm and get everyone out of the house.
Close doors of rooms behind you as you move through and out of the house.
Phone the fire department when you are outside. (Save the fire department’s number on your phone – see below)
WHAT TO DO WHEN A HOUSE IS ON FIRE NEAR YOU
Phone the fire department. (Save the fire department’s number on your phone – see below).
Move cars and other obstacles out of the way so fire trucks can pass.
Do not carry furniture into the road where it can be in the way of fire trucks and firefighters.
Do not go into the burning house for any reason.
Do not open the doors or break windows – it fuels the fire.
USEFUL CONTACT NUMBERS
Fire emergencies only: 044 801 6311
All after-hours emergencies: 044 801 6300
General enquiries fire department (office hours): 044 801 6300
Uniondale (office hours): 044 752 1225