Cape Town – The provincial Department of Human Settlements, in collaboration with Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Fire Engineering Research Unit (FireSUN) has developed a response plan to improve fire safety in informal settlements.
Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers welcomed the initiative and said it demonstrated their commitment to not only improving fire safety, but also the health and dignity of people living in informal settlements.
Simmers said fire safety in informal settlements was a huge concern to the provincial government as 1 260 fires occur, on average, every year, destroying 4 000 structures, displacing close to 13 000 people and killing more than 100.
He said the detailed report and guideline on fire safety engineering for informal settlements, which was part of phase one of the plan, contained extensive information, analysis, case studies and discussions on fire safety interventions in informal settlements.
“A chapter on fire safety interventions for backyarders has also been included. In phase two of the plan which will follow in due course, the document will be used to produce pictorial, visual and graphic illustrations.”
SU civil engineering department’s Professor Richard Walls, said a final draft of the plan was now ready, “and hopefully it will be released in the next two months.”
Walls said people should understand that there was no quick and easy solution.
“People in informal settlements are often forced to use the bucket brigade technique (passing buckets of water from one person to another) to suppress a shack fire.
“Fires develop so fast that even a fire truck ready and waiting at a station near to an informal settlement will not reach a fire before a home is destroyed,” Walls said.
He pointed to previous research and firefighter experience, which showed that water application through “bucket brigades” could help to suppress fires.