The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service does not have definitive data to support the correlation between fires and load-shedding but confirms that there is an increased risk of fire during power outages.
These particularly occur during the early morning period, or at night, when there tends to be more activity in the household, like cooking supper or breakfast, and the need for temporary lighting.
Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service, said these risks included stoves or other appliances like irons and heaters that had been left on, the use of alternative cooking devices or methods like open flames and paraffin stoves, and items used for illumination during load-shedding at night, like candles.
He recorded seven formal and three informal fires in Mitchell’s Plain between Monday November 8 and Sunday November 14.
There is also a risk of power surges when the electricity supply is restored, and that can be a risk, particularly if wall sockets or multi-plugs are overloaded.
He suggested that residents be prepared.
“Check your schedule, and a few minutes before you’re due to have load shedding, go through the house and make sure all non-essential appliances are switched off and unplugged.
“Make sure the stove is off, and that there are no gas appliances anywhere near other heat sources,” he said.
Where possible, use rechargeable lights or torches instead of candles.
When using candles, make sure that they are on a firm surface, out of reach of children, and preferably in a holder like a can, surrounded by sand.
“So, if the candle falls over, the sand will snuff out the flame,” said Mr Carelse.
Ensure that electrical sockets are not overloaded.
He said these tips were useful for fire safety in general as well as in cases of load shedding.
Mr Carelse also advised that one should keep one’s cellphone charged during load shedding, in case of an emergency.
On Saturday November 13, a Tafelsig family was left homeless after a fire ravaged their home in Carmen Crescent.
Fire crews from Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain and Epping arrived at 1.18pm. “Firefighters found a formal and an informal dwelling burning which was destroyed by the fire,” said Mr Carelse.
No injuries were reported and eight people were displaced.
The fire was extinguished at 2pm and the cause of the fire is unknown.
An Eastridge couple lost their home and all of their belongings as they watched a fire burn down their and their neighbour’s wendy houses.
Jacqueline Samuels, 49, said she was about to make a cup a coffee after supper when she sat at her table and smelled fire on Monday November 8
She then ran out and saw her neighbour’s wendy house in flames.
Ms Samuels then ran back in, grabbed her pocket nebuliser from the cupboard and her handbag hanging on the door.
All she, her son, 19, and fiancé Cassiem Christian, 49, were left with were the clothes they were wearing.
Ms Samuels, who is asthmatic, fainted in the road and was taken to Mitchell’s Plain community health centre, where she spent up to five hours.
They now stay at a neighbour’s house across the road.
According to the City’s fire report, two wood and iron structures were destroyed and an adjoining house was affected.