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City in major move to combat winter fires


In a proactive move to deal with deadly fires during the winter season, the City of Johannesburg is to distribute more than 1 000 safety kits to vulnerable informal settlements throughout its seven regions.
This was announced yesterday by Member of the Mayoral Committee for Public Safety Councillor Sello Lemao during the launch of the Public Safety Winter Campaign at the Ithlokomeleng Old Age Home in Alexandra in Region E.

The campaign was launched as the City was mourning the tragic death of two members of the Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) – Daniel Zwane and Michael Letsosa – who died of smoke inhalation after responding to a call following a fire at a seven-storey building in the Johannesburg CBD at the weekend. A moment’s silence was observed in honour of the two brave firefighters, who died while “trying to put out the fire and save lives and property”.

MMC Lemao described the state of the building, which he visited with members of EMS on Monday, as appalling. He said he was terrified by the building’s conditions and shocked by the terrible smell he and his entourage encountered.

“I wanted to see the building for myself and what caused the death of these two firefighters,” said MMC Lemao.

The winter safety campaign is a partnership between the City’s Department of Public Safety, EMS and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD). The MMC said the City had decided to launch the campaign at the old age home as the elderly were the most vulnerable group in society. He said 180 informal settlements around the City had been identified as vulnerable to fire. The informal settlements are in areas such as Ivory Park, Freedom Park and Orange Farm.

The 1 000 safety kits – which comprise a fire extinguisher, burns ointment, a paraffin lamp and primus stove – will be distributed from the beginning of June. Old age homes will also be equipped with smoke detectors.

“This work is a partnership between my department and the residents of Johannesburg to combat fires and prevent the loss of life and property,” MMC Lemao said.

He said these fires were commonly caused by:
Unregulated heating and lighting appliances;
Candles not placed in proper candle jars;
Using open fires and braziers for cooking within confined spaces; and
Illegal electricity connections.
He said the City had also intensified community outreach programmes and trained community emergency response teams, resulting in a 42% reduction in fire-related incidents.