KZN Emergency Medical Services attend to multiple cases every year that involve fires and the number of incidents certainly increase as winter approaches and during winter.
This may be attributed to several factors, which include: the cold, which results in people making fires for heat, the sun sets earlier and rises later, resulting in the increased use of candles and the activities where the fire is used, are more likely to occur inside due to the cold. Most fire related cases that are responded to involve, fires, burns wounds, smoke inhalation and accidental ingestion of liquid gel fuels.
Many people rely on candles, lanterns and braziers to provide light and heat, the major risk being that these light and heat sources have an open flame, which poses a fire risk if it is knocked over, or if something falls against it.
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Considering the likely hood of these devices being used in a confined and poorly ventilated environment, like a small room, with the doors and windows closed, the smoke produced by the flames can result in respiratory conditions.
Another common cause of fires is Illegal or unsafe electrical connections. This can range from where cables are connected to a power source illegally or unsafe wiring, where the wiring has not been done correctly. Plug points are also often over loaded with multiple devices connected to a plug.
When needing to use candles, gas stoves or braziers, consider the following safety points:
Leave candles or cookers unattended
Leave cooking pots unattended while they are being used on a stove
Allow children to play around fires
Use candles or cookers near curtain or on an uneven surface
Use illegal or unsafe electric connections
Go to sleep with candles or fires/ braziers used for heat still burning
lock people inside a house
use homemade cookers or heating appliances
Ensure adequate ventilation when using braziers or generators and preferably don’t use them inside
Teach children about fire and its dangers
Extinguish all flames/ fires before leaving them unattended or going to sleep
Store stove fuels and flammable fluids safely away
Keep matches away from children
If there is a fire or it is suspected that there may be a fire, immediate action needs to be taken
Raise the alarm/ wake up others in the house , this many also mean neighbours, depending on the living arrangements.
Evacuate the building, crawl if necessary
If cloths are on fire, lie on the floor and roll
Only put water on burn wounds
Remove burnt clothing and jewellery from burnt areas the of body
Don’t go back into the burning structure
Call emergency services
The storage of liquid fuels (paraffin, liquid jell fuels) used in stoves and lanterns, is also very important as they be accidently consumed by children and they themselves are a fire risk. The following precautions can be taken with regard to liquid fuels:
Store the fuel away from where the devices are used
Don’t store fuel in beverage containers
Use a container that seals well and preferably has a safety cap.
Educate children in the house about the fuel and store it out of their reach.
If cooking with gas, close the valve of the cylinder correctly after using it.
Despite there being many aspects of fire safety these are a few basic concepts that can help prevent the start and spread of fires, which can not only cause burns but also severe complications from inhaling the smoke produced by fires.