Protecting your property from fires

Category Home tips

With Cape Town still reeling from the aftermath of a very destructive fire season, many homeowners are justifiably concerned about the safety of their property in the event of a fire. We look at ways to give your home and property added protection from fire damage.
CEO of Greeff Christie's International Real Estate, Mike Greeff offers advice to property owners, "Aside from the obvious step of insuring your property against fire, it is always wise to take precautions and to do common maintenance on what is possibly your most valuable asset. Something as simple as checking that contractors and electricians have certification that is valid and current could save you from dealing with potentially dangerous and costly consequences."
Start with your yard
Wildfires often ignite property when there is fuel available for the fire. Clean out your garden regularly. This includes fallen leaves and twigs that could turn into quick kindling. Cutting your grass short in the dry seasons is always a good move as grass dries out and becomes very combustible in hot weather. The same can be said for leaves that have accumulated in the gutters. Embers could ignite the leaves and result in a fire that attacks the most flammable part of your home first i.e. the roof. The type of trees that you surround your home with also affect how prone your property is to fires. Conifers contain sap which is very flammable while Wild Oaks are more fire resistant. Think carefully before planting those pretty pine trees.
Use fire retardant materials
Building your home with fire retardant materials is a given in South Africa where most homes are built using bricks and mortar with tile, slate or metal roofing. Potential problems arise when homeowners install thatched roofing incorrectly or by non-certified contractors. Thatch should have a minimum thickness of 175mm and a maximum thickness of around 250 mm. Rotten thatch is usually replaced every 15 to 20 years so it would be prudent to enquire about the periodic maintenance prior to buying property with thatched roofing. Smoke detectors and emergency sprinkler systems should also be installed. 
Keep emergency fire numbers on hand if you notice a wildfire or fire on your property
As wildfires start and begin to spread, it may very well affect your property in some way. It is important to have the emergency numbers clearly printed and displayed so that in case of emergency you are able to reach the correct people through the correct channels. In case of emergency, call these toll-free numbers in Cape Town: 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a mobile phone. 
Identify potential fire hazards
One of the biggest hazards to your home when wildfires occur is not knowing to check when there are harmful materials in and around your property that could contribute to a fire spreading even further. Cleaning out rain gutters of all dry leaves or embers that may have blown into your yard could mean the difference between a potentially hazardous fire and avoiding the scare all together. If you are or have renovated, be sure to check for fire-resistant materials and how and where to use them. Some of these materials include treated lumber plywood, concrete which is non-combustible, fire-retardant wood and calcium, potassium and sodium silicate. 
Report any wildfire outbreaks
One of the most vital steps in ensuring wildfires do not spread is ensuring they are curtailed before having the chance to get any further. Civilians are encouraged to report any incidents of fires or wildfires or incidents such as lit cigarette butts being thrown along the vegetation of the mountainside.  
Contact your local Volunteer Wildfire Services
Knowing who to call in the event of an emergency is crucial in effecting the change needed to ensure as little damage as possible is caused. Greeff Christie's International Real Estate has partnered with the Volunteer Wildfire Services to try and combat the spread of wildfires. They have been at the forefront of getting wildfires under control for almost 20 years.

After starting in Cape Town following the devastating 1999/2000 fires, the Volunteer Wildfire Services continued their expansion by opening up four offices around the Cape, including their head office in Newlands. Their advice to property owners is that 'prevention is always better than cure.' Smoke detectors, sprinkler systems and using fire retardant roofing and insulation are just some small ways to minimise the risk to property

Protecting your home and family from fires can be as simple as taking a few basic precautions. Fire prevention starts with you.

Author: Greeff

Submitted 25 Mar 19 / Views 392