Fire-proof your home this festive season

Drinks flow as you socialise around the braai fire, candles dimly light the living room as the family take their seats around the Christmas Eve dinner table, or Eskom rolls out another bout of load-shedding and the only source of light you can turn to are those risky candles. There’s a reason summer is regarded the fire season.

And it doesn’t help that the festive feeling of summer and endless partying lends itself to reckless behaviour.

One bad decision can have life-changing consequences. Which is why we asked Luahn Albertyn, a City of Cape Town firefighter, to share a few tips on staying safe this silly season.

1. Don’t discard burning cigarettes from your vehicle. They’re one of the primary causes of vegetation fires. Rather dispose of them in an ashtray.

2. Ensure braai fires are properly distinguished before leaving areas where open fires are permitted.

3. Keep matches and lighters away from children. Take caution with kids around open flames or hot surfaces like gas stoves.

4. Extinguish all candles and lamps before leaving the house or going to bed.

5. Never leave fires or hot stoves unattended.

6. Don’t overload electrical circuits – no more than four plugs on one extension.

7. Don’t smoke in bed.

8. Keep a portable fire extinguisher handy to put out fires as soon as possible.

9. Use child-proof caps on flammable products such as paraffin.

10. Comply with legal requirements for burning vegetation off-cuts.

 What to do in the event of a house fire

“Your first priority should be to save yourself and your family,” Albertyn says. “Property can be replaced but not lives.”

Once in a safe area, call the emergency number from a landline or cellphone and report the fire. The national fire brigade helpline is 998/999.

If you’re in a building that’s on fire, go down low and crawl beneath the smoke to the closest exit.

If you’ve inhaled smoke, get into fresh air until medical help arrives or go to your closest hospital for treatment.

What to do if someone got burnt

“Don’t use any home remedies like putting butter, an ice cube or frozen object on the burn wound area,” Albertyn warns. “Instead, immediately place the burnt area in cold water and seek medical help.”