Irrespective of whether Fires are regarded as natural, whether planned or unwanted, there is a need to ensure safety and to reduce risk.
The proper control and management of fires require at least -
It is estimated that as many as 90% of fires are started by people.
Whether you are starting a fire break as a precaution, or doing a controlled burn of a larger area you should pay attention to local conditions, and adjust your planning to suit. Think about -
The season (Is this the opportune time to burn?)
Veld density (How intense will the fire be?)
Veld condition (Can it support a burn? How dry is the veld?)
In the local area, where are the risk (e.g. homes, fuel storage, animal feed)
Always be aware of wind speed and direction. You may need to put out a fire if the wind conditions change and the risk increases.
Are you and your staff adequately trained and do you have the experience for the task?
Are you adequately equipped? (See more)
● Educate your staff and tenants;
● Refuse fires are NOT allowed;
● Dispose of hot ashes or coals in a safe place where there is no risk of starting a fire;
● When working with power tools, work in a cleared ventilated area (eg angle grinders, welders);
● When working in the veld with power tools (repairing or installing electrical fences, etc ensure the workmen have fire beaters at hand, and know how to beat down a fire)
● Ensure all electrical installations and appliances are correctly wired;
● Keep an large area around building clear of combustible material, ie. fire wood, garbage;
Think about the risk within your garden: substitute alien species with indigenous species (particularly succulents close to structures).
Ensure that the garden is easy to walk through in any direction, to facilitate emergency entry or exit.
The risk associated with fire is significantly influenced by fluctuating and variable rainfall cycles.
Around the home, take these precautions -
● Trim vegetation / veld grass up to 30m from dwellings;
● Remove dead and dry plants, trees, shrubs, excess leaves, plant parts, and low hanging branches around structures;
● Create fire safe zones using stone walls, patio’s, swimming pools, decks and road ways;
● Stack fire wood and other inflammable at least 10m away from buildings;
● Liquids should be stored in purpose manufactured metal containers;
● Provide sufficient fire extinguishing and supplementary equipment;
● Ensure all Fire Fighting equipment is regularly checked, serviced and in working order;
● Gas installations should be clear of combustibles and conform to the prescribed installation standards.
In the area –
● Create and maintain adequate Fire Breaks (a fire break will not stop a fire with a strong wind behind it; fire breaks give access to fire fighters and an opportunity to intervene);
● Join or form a local Fire Prevention Association, allowing for more structured and organised responses to fire risk;
● Form a fire response team;
● Ensure workers are fully equipped and regularly trained;
● Hold regular training drills for emergency fire response and evacuation of guests;
● Elect a fire chief and take instruction when fighting fires.
The National Veld and Forest Fire Act requires, amongst other obligations, landowners and user’s to have adequate perimeter fire breaks.
If planned or prescribed burning is elected:
● Burning should be done in moderate weather
● Adequate fire fighting personnel and equipment must be available on stand by.
● At least two weeks notice informing your neighbours of your intention to burn is required
A firebreak should:
● Be wide and long enough to have a reasonable chance of stopping the veld fire by creating a safe place from which to control the spread.
● Not cause soil erosion
● Be reasonably free of inflammable material.
The Act also promotes the formation of Fire Protection Associations (FPA). Membership confers the benefit that if fire spreads from a members property there is not an automatic presumption of negligence, as is the case of non members.
A local FPA facilitates cooperation between neighbours on common fire management issues and sets minimum standards of fire protection specific to the area.
The Act requires a national system of fire danger rating to be established. Once in place, this system will issue daily ratings that will govern whether or not people will be able to ignite fires in the open air. This will also dictate the level of preparedness / alert of fire fighting forces.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act provisions require that workers are safely trained and equipped for work. Expecting untrained workers to assist in fire management response is illegal and dangerous.
Although a critical component of the response aspect, preparedness is necessary in order to be able to respond in a desired manner.
Emergency and evacuation procedures are an obligation and should be well constructed and pre-planned.
All fires start small. Detection at the earliest possible stage is critical.
● Smoke detectors integrated into burglar alarm systems to cover vulnerable buildings.
● Fire watch networks could be established and a procedure implemented for reporting clearly and accurate
A well co-ordinated response would include:
The dedicated fire management team be alerted immediately with appropriate system
Rapid deployment of fire fighting resources
Communications to the local FPA, elected Fire Chief and / or Fire Services
Progress of fire fighting endeavours to be monitored and communicated
Careful watch should be directed on the fire out flanking fire fighters or fresh fire fronts being created
Suppressed fires should be observed for re-ignition
Those not actively engaged in fighting the fire should monitor and manage the risk ahead of the fire.
Thatch roofs, buildings and the vegetation in surrounding areas should be drenched.
Surplus combustible materials should be removed wherever possible.
Staff and guests to be alerted and marshalled to a safe assembly or evacuation point.
Emergency medical resources should be placed on stand by
If possible setup a first aid and watering point for fire fighters
Finally, the threat is not limited entirely to flames. Radiant heat, dehydration and asphyxiation are also real threats to safety and must be considered. Responding to fires is potentially very dangerous.