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​​The City's Emergency Management Services (EMS) has kicked off its annual Winter Safety Campaign, with the overriding desire to help residents avert fire dangers.

The campaign was launched by the MMC for Public Safety, Cllr. Michael Sun at the Zamimpilo Informal Settlement in Riverlea on Wednesday, 5 June. It was themed Stay Alive until We Arrive.

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“Shack fires in the area have prompted EMS to intensify proactive fire safety measures in an effort to reduce fire incidents," says EMS spokesperson Nana Radebe.

The City has already trained Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) in most informal settlements to help perform basic safety interventions before response teams arrive on the scene.​

“The City trains residents in informal settlements on basic fire safety interventions including CPR, firefighting and bylaw education to ensure the safe use of lighting and cooking utilities in households," says Radebe.

Every winter, the City runs safety education campaigns at informal settlements and in public schools to equip members of the community with the knowledge to avoid the dangers of raging fires.

Radebe says shack fires are preventable if people use proper cooking and lighting equipment and know how to identify fire risks in their households.

Some of the risks that cause fires around the city include cooking equipment, such as prime stoves, that are not SABS approved; confined spaces with no electricity, braziers with highly flammable materials for cooking and candles that are not placed on proper holders or on a flat surface to prevent them from falling.

“These energy sources can lead to death especially when people inhale their toxic smoke," Radebe explains.

She says alcohol abuse has also been identified as a fire risk because it leads to people falling asleep without switching off their electrical appliances or blowing out candles. Other fire dangers include illegal electrical connections.

“A new and worrying trend, which is posing some difficulties for the City to manage relates to fires caused by couples in love triangles when they fight as a result of a fallout," she says. According to the EMS, there has been a significant reduction in shack fires in the 2017/2018 financial year, with only 332 reported, a stark contrast from the more than 500 that occurred in the 2016 winter season.

“Community members should take the necessary caution because shack fires lead to unnecessary deaths and loss of property, leaving communities in a vulnerable state," Radebe notes.​