By Jay Caboz, follow more on his photography page here
Gavin, who lives at number 15 Juweel Street, Jukskei Park, noticed that something was amiss after he hearing strange noises coming from his neighbour’s house. It was 4am but from his bedroom window it looked as if sunrise had happened already. The house next door, number 17 was on fire.
“I then heard the sound of the flames as the thatch caught fire. I phoned the fire department and went outside to start wetting my own thatch roof with the garden hose.”
By the time the firemen arrived the flames were two meters high.
Firemen struggled with the fire. They needed more water but the only fire hydrant was on the next street. Four more trucks and a portable water truck were called in to handle the blaze.
Until they came, firemen controlled the fire by wetting the border areas of the house. Other neighbours also began to wet their thatch rooftops in case the blaze spread.
“The house had been empty for a couple of months.” said Gavin to the other neighbours gathered around the street. One of them was watching the fire with her coffee mug still steaming.
Despite rumours of squatters on the property firemen said they found no evidence that anyone had been in the house when the fire had started.
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Stories like these are a regular occurrence in South Africa’s wintertime. Winter is dry in Joburg, and cold, according the city of Johannesburg these are the two leading causes that lead to fires in households in the city. People turn on their heaters and braziers, and carelessness can lead to devastating fires.
The following is taken from an article written by Camilla Bath, Deputy News Editor for Eyewitness News, in Johannesburg.
“Fire is a terrifying thing. It tears through homes, guts buildings, destroys property and devastates the lives of those who survive it. Many don’t.”
Years ago, as a field reporter, I covered the story of a fire at an electrical sub-station in Johannesburg in which a man died. Authorities suspected the victim had been living in the sub-station and had inadvertently touched a live wire, starting the blaze late at night.
Early the following morning, I caught a glimpse of his blackened body through the painted slats of an air vent. It is an image that has stayed with me in vivid detail, one I wish I’d never seen: the badly burnt corpse somehow frozen in time, crouching, one hand outstretched, his face formless, its features seared away. Perhaps worse than that stiff figure was the smell of burnt flesh, unexpectedly sweet and cloying.
Every time I hear or read about another fatal fire, I’m taken straight back to that scene.”
Follow more of her article here -http://sawdis1.blogspot.com/2012/06/real-burning-issue.html
So what can be done?
The City of Johannesburg has outlined some Winter safety tips
- Use only SABS-approved electrical and/or cooking apparatus
- Experience has shown that in informal settlements – though this can also be the case in brick and mortar structures – people tend to disregard even the smallest detail regarding fire safety by warming themselves using primus stoves and braziers (mbawulas), only to fall asleep and their homes go up in flames
- Do not leave candles burning unattended
- Alcohol should be consumed in moderation
- In case of emergency, call 10177 or 112
- Children should be closely monitored
- Fire sources such as heaters, stoves and irons should not be left unattended.
- Boxes of matches and cigarette lighters should be stored safely
Everyone is welcome to volunteer at a fire station in Johannesburg of his/her choice. Life skills acquired through such volunteering can be used in life-saving situations. A well-trained volunteer can perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on victims of drowning and smoke inhalation. They can also train members of their own communities to be life-savers.
Other sites of interest