Lessons to be learnt

Lessons to be learnt from recent events

Waking at 3:00 yesterday morning and seeing the news of the huge fire in London’s Grenfell tower block seemed almost surreal. Visions of the horror of 9/11 were immediately brought to mind and the scenes on TV were as if there was a rescreening of the movie Towering Inferno.

Watching as the fire engulfed the tower one could only hope and pray that those on the upper floors of the 24-story building were able to escape the inferno. As of this morning the death toll was only being reported as 12 but with many more people as yet still unaccounted for, one can only imagine this figure will rise significantly as firemen access the upper floors which are still burning this morning.

Those who witnessed the 9/11 twin towers disasters on TV will undoubtedly remember scenes of people jumping from the towers and facing certain death rather than be consumed by fire. Although similar scenes were not seen on TV footage yesterday, similar scenes were reported by bystanders. One of the most amazing reports was of a mother dropping a child from the ninth or tenth floor being caught by a man on the ground below. Miracles do happen in times of disaster.

But out of disaster comes human spirit and kindness which has been so visibly displayed in all of the fire disasters that have headlined our news in the past seven days. In each and every one of these catastrophic events it has been not only the bravery of the firmen and women fighting the blazes but also the generosity and caring of the surrounding communities that possibly deserves mention. Although not directly affected our own community came together to help whether it for food, water and medical equipment and supplies for the firefighters or food, clothing, bedding for those most affected by the fires including animals. As with our community so it was in London where it was reported that aid was being turned away so generous were the donations received within hours of the disaster.

With the Garden Route, Kouga and Nelson Mandela Bay still so fresh in our minds another fire, even one so far from our own shores, is a grim reminder of the speed at which fire devours all before it, sparing nothing and impossible to arrest. It therefore bears time to reflect and to ask the question, how prepared are YOU should fire strike close to home, YOUR HOME?

Fire Extinguishers

  • Do you have fire extinguishers at home? An all-purpose extinguisher (one that combats both grease and electrical fires) should always be kept in the kitchen. You should also keep one in the garage and anywhere else where something combustible could start a fire.
  • If you do have fire extinguishers, and you should, when did you last check the expiration date on the fire extinguishers?
  • With winter upon us and if you have a gas heater, have you had it serviced before the onset of the cold? If not you should do so immediately. Bob Miekle offers a gas heater service facility so make sure you call him today to service yours.
  • Precaution should be taken with any heating device and here are some suggestions you should pay attention to even if they seem like common sense.
    • Have a one-meter pet and kid-free zone around all heating devices.
    • Never leave any heating devices unattended.
    • Make sure fireplaces have screens to prevent sparks setting the house on fire.
    • When burning any heater except an electrical one, make sure there is good ventilation in the room.
    • Never leave heaters on when you go out.
    • Never put anything on top of a heater – even when it is switched off.
    • Make sure there is nothing that can catch fire within a meter of the heating device.
    • Check electrical wiring on heaters and don’t use extension cords, multi-plugs or any device with frayed wiring.
  • Ensure the bush around your home is clear and does not present a fire risk
  • If a neighbouring plot is overgrown insist that the owner clears the overgrowth or report it to the municipality so that they can have it cleared.
  • Keep all your important documents in an easily accessible place where should a threat arise, such documents / belongings can be quickly recovered if you have to evacuate your home.

There is little doubt that the experiences of the past week, both in South Africa and abroad, will be the subject of a debriefing by the St Francis Disaster Volunteer Group (SFDVG). Certainly we are fortunate not to have multi-story buildings in St Francis but we do have other possible challenges that need to be identified and planned for. If you haven’t yet joined the official dsaster management Facebook portal you do so for in the event of a local disaster it will be where accurate information will be posted to keep the community up to date with information.

https://web.facebook.com/DVGSF/

FOOTNOTE:

Why is it not a law in South Africa that every home /  building is not required to have fire detection equipment installed? Surely it should be an absolute requirement as important as, if not more so than an electrical certificate and certainly more so than a borer beetle certificate.

Humanitarian crisis

Humanitarian crisis brewing at Longmore

A humanitarian crisis is brewing at the Longmore village where residents have been without electricity and water since the weekend.

Kouga Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen said 80 households were affected by the service interruption, caused by fire damage to electrical infrastructure.

“Longmore is situated in the Kouga region, but Nelson Mandela Bay is the supply authority for electricity. The Metro had hoped to have the power restored by today, but the damage was more extensive than anticipated,” she said.

“The burnt line also supplies electricity to the Loerie Dam and pump stations, hence, the interruption in the water supply.”

She said Kouga Municipality was carting water to the area and that 25 mobile toilets were being delivered to the village today. Generators are being brought in to try and get the pump stations up and running again.

“We are also collecting ready-made meals for the 204 people of the village because it has been difficult for them to make their own food.”

She said the full extent of the fire damage had not yet been determined but that early estimates put it at hundreds of millions of rands.

“Sixty percent of the Longmore Plantation, as well as the saw mill, burnt down. The cost of this damage will be immense.”

She said the Department of Social Development was working with local farmers and farming associations to assess the damage to farms in the area.

“We are concerned that hundreds of farm workers are going to be without work. It could take as long as three years or more for affected farmers to rebuild what they have lost.”

She said Social Development and the Jeffreys Bay Trauma Centre were continuing with counselling support.  Eighteen children from the affected areas have already received counselling.

She appealed to non-profit organisations that work with poor communities to contact Sarah Hugo from the National Lottery at 086 006 5383 to see how they can assist those traumatised and affected by the fire.

Ready-made meals can be dropped off at the Thornhill Hotel, the Kouga Municipal offices at 33 Da Gama Road, Jeffreys Bay, or at the Kouga Fire Department on the entry road to Humansdorp from the N2.

Press release from Laura-Leigh Randall
Kouga Municipality Media Liaison Oficer
084 2055 388

Firefighters on alert

Kouga fire-fighters on high alert

Fire-fighters on alertKouga fire-fighters are on high alert, with strong winds having been predicted for tomorrow.

Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen said two helicopters from the SA National Defence Force arrived this afternoon to water-bomb areas that could flare up.

“A 100 fire-fighters are also on the ground, busy with mop-up operations between Loerie and Thornhill.

“We would like to ask the public not to panic should there be flare-ups in the wind tomorrow. The situation is being monitored and managed carefully,” she said.

“If it becomes necessary to issue an evacuation alert, this will be done officially by the municipality. We ask people not to spread false rumours.  The municipality will publish relevant information on its Facebook page.”

She said the fire at Longmore was under control at the moment but still smouldering. Tree stumps are also still smouldering in the area between the N2 and R102 where fire crews extinguished fires yesterday.

“We would once again like to appeal to motorists to reduce their speed when travelling past the Van Stadens and Thornhill areas. There are a lot of animals, both livestock and wildlife, wandering into the roads because of the fences having burnt down,” she said.

The Mayor said Sanral had already started replacing damaged road signs and fencing but that the damage was extensive.

She appealed to the public to report any fire-related incidents, including trees and obstructions that have fallen in the road, to Kouga’s all-hour emergency number at 042-291 0250.

Press release from Laura-Leigh Randall
Kouga Municipality Media Liaison Oficer
084 2055 388