Campaign On Shack Fires Shows Results

Shack fires in the informal settlements of Moses Garoumleb constituency have reduced significantly so far this year compared to subsequent years, says councillor Martin David.

Speaking to New Era recently, David who did not have official statistics to substantiate his statement, said: “We get reports of one or two shacks that were gutted by fire in a week but it is not like before. It has reduced a little bit because the City of Windhoek last year came up with educational campaigns on how people could take precautions to avoid shack fires.”

Statistics obtained from the Windhoek Municipality on shack fires in informal settlements in Windhoek indicate that in 2012 from January to December some 105 shack fires were reported. Last year, 143 shack fires were reported over the same period and from January to March this year 24 shack fires were reported, while over the same period last year 27 shack fires were reported. In 2012, eleven shack fires were reported from January to March.

David said the winter season is notorious for shack fires because many people try to keep warm from the cold and the methods used are many a time a fire hazard.

David noted most fires occur over weekends.

“This is because some people will go out and drink and when they are tired they go back to their shacks. In cases where they have lit a candle they sleep without extinguishing it and the next thing they know the shack is burning,” explained David. He added that many people do not know how to use candles safely. David maintained that parents and guardians often leave lit candles unattended and also in the care of children while they are at work.

He added: “If a candle burns to a point where it is finished that is when the fire starts.” Curtains, David said, are also a factor in causing shack fires.

“When the wind blows and the curtains respond by moving and there is a candle close by a potential fire will start,” said David, who added that many shacks do not have windows and that on its own constitutes a potential risk factor for a shack fire.

“In most cases people do not want to explain how their shacks caught fire because in some cases it is as a result of negligence and they fear they might not be assisted,” David said.

Paraffin is another contributing factor. “If people do not know how to use paraffin stoves it is very dangerous and can cause fire,” David said.

David applauded the Windhoek Municipality for the initiative to educate informal settlement residents on how to prevent shack fires. He implored residents to do all they can to reduce shack fires.

“Every house (shack) must have the fire brigade number so that in an event where a fire breaks out they immediately call for assistance and they must be ready to give clear directions to avoid delays,” further aised David.

Source : New Era