Substance abuse one of main causes of fires in Mother City

16 September 2018 - 14:00 By Timeslive
Informal structure fire at Mandela Park, Hout Bay. File photo.
Informal structure fire at Mandela Park, Hout Bay. File photo.
Image: City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services

Substance abuse and negligence feature prominently as causes of fires in Cape Town‚ statistics for the last three-and-a-half years show.

Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service says it is gravely concerned by the trends emerging from fire fatality statistics gathered over the last few years.

Between January 2015 and June 2018‚ there were 511 fire-related fatalities in Cape Town. Of these 53% of the victims were adult males, 46% of fatalities happened over weekends and 58% of fatalities occurred between midnight and 6am.

“We’ve indicated time and again that negligence and substance abuse play a role in a number of fires that our staff respond to. This statistical analysis supports this assertion‚ which means that we will have to further increase our public education and awareness drives.

“However‚ we also appeal to the public to assist us by being more vigilant around flammable materials at all times‚” said the city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services JP Smith.

Smith said that in the last financial year‚ the Fire and Rescue Service had seen a reduction in the number of vegetation fires‚ but increases in numerous other categories‚ including residential fires‚ building fires and transport-related fires.

“The building and transport fires are directly linked to the increase in protest action that we’ve witnessed over the past year and include the apparent arson attacks targeting Metrorail.

“What’s of interest is the increase in fires at formal residential properties. While there has been a slight increase in the number of fires at informal dwellings‚ there has been a near 50% drop in the number of dwellings affected. This speaks to a greater awareness around fire safety but‚ as the fatalities indicate‚ there is still much work to be done‚” added Smith.

Building safety in respect of fires has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. The city’s Fire Life Safety Inspectorate conducted nearly 1‚700 building inspections in the last financial year and responded to 280 complaints. They issued 1‚281 written notices for contraventions of the Community Fire Safety By-Law and two Section 56 notices to building owners to appear in court.

“Our inspectors conduct as many inspections relating to buildings and hazardous installations as our resources allow. We simply do not have the resources to inspect each and every building proactively‚ so we encourage building owners but also tenants – whether residential or business – to familiarise themselves with the Community Fire Safety By-law so that they can conduct checks of fire safety equipment and determine whether their building is compliant‚” Smith said.