Cape Town: Fewer but more devastating structural fires in December
The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service experienced a busy December period, responding to more than 2 000 vegetation and structural fires. Collectively, there were 2 251 vegetation and structural fires, compared to 2 114 incidents in 2019. “The downturn in fires is encouraging but of course, one fire is one fire too many. Also, taking into account the number of homes destroyed in Masiphumelele and more recently, the Taiwan informal settlement in Khayelitsha, the impact and cost was massive to those who lost so much in these incidents. Apart from the Fire and Rescue Service response, there are a number of City departments who play a role in assisting in the aftermath of fires, although our role has been curtailed somewhat in recent years. The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre used to play a pivotal role in coordinating humanitarian relief on behalf of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) but in 2018, SASSA decided to take responsibility for activating humanitarian relief. While it may be that it was well intended, the reality is that there have been delays in providing relief to persons affected by fires and flooding,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith. The graph below shows an increase in vegetation fires but a marked downturn in structural fires year-on-year.
The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre continues to play a coordinating role in the City’s response to incidents, including:
• Activating all City line departments, NGOs and other stakeholders in the event of a fire
• Conducting damage assessments relating to the infrastructure
• On site coordination of services: Incident Action Plan
• Logistical support: setting up of mobile Joint Operations Vehicle and lighting equipment, activation of volunteers to assist NGOs
• Registration of all affected persons in order for SASSA to provide humanitarian assistance
• Rehabilitation process: advocacy role for risk reduction
“The City does offer emergency shelter options to persons in need but given the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of community halls is not an option currently. It is also worth noting that many people turn down the alternative shelter options as they prefer to remain close to the incident site, so as not to lose an opportunity to re-erect their structure,” added Alderman Smith.
Source: Media office, City of Cape Town