Public urged to keep safe in winter

Monday, May 4, 2009

Johannesburg - Given the potential for fires in winter, Joburg's Emergency Management Services (EMS) is urging people to take precautions against the dangers associated with heaters, candles and paraffin stoves.

"There is a prevailing misconception, held by some, to the effect that household fire incidents are only confined to informal settlements, and that people living in formal structures are immune to these phenomena," said the EMS's acting communications manager, Percy Morokane.

"The sad reality is that [human] lives have been lost and properties worth millions of rands have also been destroyed," he added.

Accidents have already been reported in Joburg this year. On 9 April, four people, including a seven-month old baby, died in two incidents that were reportedly the result of negligence, reports

In the first, a Diepsloot mother and her three children were asleep when their shack caught fire, allegedly from a candle that was left burning.

In George Gogh informal settlement, about 20 shacks were burnt to the ground and a woman in her early forties was burnt beyond recognition.

The EMS has advised people to not cover heaters with blankets, clothing or newspaper, adding that asbestos and oil convection heaters use less electricity than bar heaters.

People should further check their gas heaters for any leaks and shut them off tightly when not in use. The public has also been urged not to use a paraffin stove as a heater.

Regarding the use of candles, the EMS said people should never leave a candle burning out of sight or when they are asleep. All candles should be extinguished before leaving a room or going to sleep.

People using candles, should always use the right candle holder and keep burning candles away from drapes, curtains, bedding, carpets, paper, or other decorations.

According to the EMS, paraffin stoves, used by many people for cooking, are another potential danger.

When using paraffin stoves, users should make sure that it is placed on a flat, solid surface so that it cannot be knocked over or bumped. Furthermore, users must always have a bucket of sand nearby when using a paraffin stove.

Children should never be left alone near a paraffin stove and users should always use a childproof paraffin safety cap on the paraffin bottle.

Mr Morokane urged the public that prevention was better than cure, adding that "to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Safety comes first."