A few simple precautions can prevent potential damage and loss of life caused by common household fires – as well as lessening the load on emergency services. The Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa’s fire statistics show a total of 10 199 residential fires were responded to during 2013. This means that there are on average 27 residential fires a day. More than 27 % of these residential fires were caused by electricity, cooking and heating.

The picture in developed countries is similar. A recent United States National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) study which shows that fire departments in the US respond to an average of 1 000 home fires every single day, which amounts to 42 every hour. Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy at the NFPA, Lorraine Carli, said that the majority of home fires can be prevented by taking simple steps. (These points have been adapted for South Africa.)

1. Don’t crowd appliances together
Leaving space between your appliances allows the head they generate to dissipate.

2. Never leave cooking food unattended
Leaving your cooking unattended for any amount of time, however brief, could result in a fire.

3. Avoid daisy-chaining extension cords
Connecting extension cords to each other overloads them, which may cause a short circuit that can result in a fire.

4. Replace damaged or worn out cords
A compromised cord is a fire risk, as the heat from the wires could come in contact with anything that can burn. This includes carpets, couches, laminate floors, even stray hair lying on the ground.

5. Make sure everything is switched off
Never leave the house while appliances are still switched on.

6. Clean out tumble dryer lint
Dryer lint that collects on the filter, around the drum and in the vents can catch fire from the heat from the tumble dryer.

7. Don’t leave a lit candle unattended
Candles are very popular nowadays, with load-shedding plaguing the country. Keep in mind that they can easily be blown over by the wind and knocked over by children and pets.

Keep your lit candle in a large jar, filled half-way with dry sand. Read more about candle safety on the Child Accident Prevention Foundation’s web site, here.

8. If you have a chimney, clean it regularly
Creosote is an oily chemical compound that builds up in your chimney whenever you use your fireplace. Have your chimney inspected by a chimney sweep at least once a year.

Read more about local fire safety and prevention of the City of Cape Town’s website, here.


Source: Good Housekeeping, via Popular Mechanics USA

South African Fire Statistics source: Fire Protection Association