Auto & General Blog – FIA blog
When it comes to wildfires, nothing beats the speed and efficiency of aerial resources. An initial attack strategy is crucial as a wildfire can spread at a rate of up to 23 km/h, consuming everything in its path.
An initial attack strategy means suppressing a fire as quickly as possible, before it gets big. This is the safest and least expensive option.
This year, there has been a national increase in fire related incidents and the Cape Winelands area has been ravaged by dozens of fires. According to a UN report, wildfires are going to get more frequent and more intense, with a global increase of extreme fires of up to 14% by 2030, 30% by the end of 2050 and 50% by the end of the century.
Together with five other insurance companies, namely Lombard, Old Mutual, Santam, Hollard and Bryte Insurance, we have sponsored two Bell Huey fire-fighting helicopters. These helicopters are equipped with bambi buckets for firefighting, as well as two 4x4 fuel bowsers. Since launching in December 2021, the initiative has proved highly successful. To date, 15 fires have been successfully contained and property to the value of approximately R50 million has been saved.
It’s imperative for homeowners to know what to do if their house catches alight, whether they live in a fire-prone area or not.
Aside from general fire safety that prevents a fire from starting in your home – including the inspection of wiring and appliances, safely working with gas and heaters, or simply responsible smoking practices – it’s important to take steps to prevent a fire from spreading by following these preventative tips:
- Make sure that you use fire retardant materials or treatments on roofs, walls, wooden decks, etc. as far as possible.
- Remove any flammable materials like dead branches, long grass, rubbish bins and boxes from around your house. Also remove flammable materials from the roof and gutters.
- Cut away any trees or other plants that grow too close to your house, as these could be conduits for fire. Be cautious about highly inflammable trees, like gum trees or palm trees. Both alien trees have led to many households being destroyed.
- Plan your garden and paving in such a way that they provide both horizontal and vertical fire breaks.
- Store flammable chemicals and fuels away from the house.
- Spark proof your house and outbuildings by closing up any gaps between panels like soffit and fascia boards that sparks could be blown into.
- Vents and windows are prime spots for sparks and embers to gather – close these if need be.
- Ensure that you have a working fire extinguisher, from a reputable source, and that you know how to use it.
- Consider investing in fireproof blankets that can withstand high temperatures.
- Familiarise everyone with the relevant emergency numbers.
In the event that you are caught in a runaway fire:
- Decide on a safe place to meet outside the house.
- Evacuate immediately when prompted – never try to collect belongings before evacuating.
- Pre-pack a “go bag” with important documents like Passports, ID books etc.
- Don’t re-enter the house once outside.
- Don’t open doors of rooms you suspect are on fire or if the door’s handle is hot. Look for an alternative route instead.
- Never enter rooms that are already on fire.
- Crawl low to the ground when leaving a room filled with smoke to reduce smoke inhalation.
- If you are trapped, close the door to the room and put a blanket or towel at the bottom of the door to keep out the smoke.
- Wrap yourself in a blanket and call for help from the window if you cannot open a door for a way out.
At Auto & General we are proud to be part of a team that is able to help implement an impactful initiative that is not only saving lives, but is also saving millions of rands in damage to property.
Auto & General Insurance Company Limited is a Licensed non-life insurer and financial services provider.