Tips to help you prepare for the Western Cape summer fire season
Cape Town - Wildfires are common in South Africa with significant social, economic, and environmental impacts. Santam, South Africa’s leading short-term insurer urges homeowners, especially those in wildland-urban interface areas with their proximity to flammable vegetation, to play their part to mitigate risks amid the increasing global pattern of destructive wildfires.
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 were reported in Tokai Forest, Signal Hill, Table Mountain, Betty’s Bay and near Rawsonville.
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. Their statistics show that in South Africa there were 7 914 fire alerts reported between 25 October 2021 and 17 October 2022.
This is high compared to previous years going back to 2012. So far, 41 kha (41 000 ha) of land have been burnt in 2022. The most fires recorded in a year were in 2021 when 3.4 Mha (3,4 million ha) were burnt.
Attie Blaauw, Santam’s Head of Personal Lines Underwriting, says fire season is a real and present risk over this time of year and residents need to be alert to the danger’s fires can pose to properties and possessions.
“To prevent the loss of lives and property, it is vital to improve ways to prevent, manage and extinguish wildfires. Everyone needs to be aware of the danger of fire during this season.”
Santam recommends the following safety tips:
- 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
- Have an evacuation plan, including 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 that all of your electrical appliances are correctly wired
- Keep the area around your home clear of flammable materials
- Only burn rubbish on cooler days with little or no wind, provided you have a burning permit
- Never leave an open fire unattended
- Only 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 that you are guilty of negligence in the event of a liability lawsuit
Blaauw adds that homeowners should check their insurance policies annually and ensure their household contents and homeowner’s sum insured (the sum that your property or building is insured for) are in line with the current replacement value of their household goods. “Policyholders should also ensure that the value of their buildings is adequately insured,” he says.