As the world watches shocking footage of California engulfed in flames, we are reminded that fire season in Cape Town has started. Earlier this year, devastating fires left thousands without homes throughout the Western Cape. While some fires start naturally, most fires are caused by human error. We all need to do our part to ensure we do not start fires.
Here is valuable information about our fire season, courtesy of the Western Cape Government.
How are fires started?
Intentional arson: a malicious and criminal act of deliberately starting fires.
Smoking: Discarded cigarette butts can also cause wildfires, either from workers working in the fields or bush, passing pedestrians or motorists.
Cooking fires: Open fires for cooking and discarded hot ashes can cause wildfires, particularly in nature conservation areas or on farms.
Burning of debris: Permitted and unpermitted burning of debris, if badly managed or if weather conditions change suddenly, can cause fires.
Lightning: A cause of both wildfires and structural fires.
Wildfires can spread rapidly under the following conditions
Faster uphill than downhill.
With the wind, rather than against the wind.
Faster where there is dry and dead plant material.
Faster with small sources of fuel.
Faster where the vegetation canopy is intertwined.
What you should do when wildfire approaches your property
Even if the fire seems small, report it immediately.
Decide whether it’s safer to stay or leave your property.
Wear protective clothing and footwear.
Have emergency food and medical supplies ready.
Move livestock to safer areas.
Listen to the radio for news updates.
Wet the garden and house, especially on the side of the approaching fire.
Plug gutters and fill them with water.
Fill baths, buckets and dust bins with water in case the water supply fails, and have mops handy.
Seal any gaps between the doors and floor using wet towels or similar items.
Close all windows and doors.
If you decide to stay, go indoors and remain there until the fire has passed.
Take hoses and other firefighting equipment indoors with you.
Check inside the house, including the roof cavity, and extinguish any small fires immediately.
Remain vigilant after the fire has passed.
If you decide to evacuate your home, remember that every second counts.
Escape first, then call for help. Develop a home fire escape plan and make sure everyone in the family gathers at an agreed meeting place outside.
Make sure everyone in the family knows 2 ways to escape from every room.
Practise feeling your way out with your eyes closed.
Never stand up in a fire, always crawl low under the smoke and try to keep your mouth covered.
Practice your family emergency or home escape plan frequently with your family.
Never return to a burning building for any reason. This can have severe consequences for you.
This incredible footage displays the sheer power of the wildfires in California.
Photography Unsplash and Twitter