23 November 2009

The long, hot, fiery summer

We have officially entered the summer wildfire season. Protect yourself and your property with Health24's fire tips.

We have officially entered the summer fire season for many parts of the country – a season that climate change and population pressures make longer, hotter and more unpredictable every year.

From the moment we’re told not to play with matches, that’s exactly what we want to do. Could it be those cave fires in our collective memory? The fact is that we're all a bit obsessed by the lovely crackle and flicker of flames.

Perhaps it’s because we’re so easily mesmerised that we forget how quickly fire can turn on us. Every romantic candle, laid-back braai and magical sparkler holds the potential for disaster.

Volunteer Wildfire Services tackling a blaze last summer on Table Mountain. (Photo: Richard Merrett)

Summer’s upon us again – wildfire season for much of the south. And even if you live in a summer rainfall region, this is still a time of high fire risk.

Fire managers also warn that the late rainy spell experienced this year in some areas, most notably the south-western Cape, does not necessarily mean a milder fire season. More rain often leads to greater vegetation growth, and consequently a higher fuel load for fires.

But armed with some basic knowledge you can keep the fires friendly and protect yourself and your property over this period:

  • If you live close to vegetation that poses a fire risk, you need to take these measures.
  • Know what to do if you're out in the veld and faced with an oncoming wildfire.
  • Brush up on basic first aid for smoke inhalation, the leading fire-related cause of death, and burns.
  • And as for smokers…well. You need to watch your butts. This impressive graphic shows just how much trouble one little stompie can cause.

- Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, November 2009

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