WOF cautions against deadly summer fires

Senior citizens do some exercises as part of the fire awareness campaign.

With the fire season looming large, efforts are well underway to prevent unnecessary fires and the loss of lives.

At an awareness-raising event hosted by Working on Fire (WoF) at the Gugulethu Sports Complex on Saturday October 15, senior citizens were taught how they could help prevent fires.

Part of the activities also included doing exercises, with more than 50 seniors as well as scores of children taking part as they were instructed by the fire fighters.

While some of the seniors were up for the task, for others, it was not so easy. Afterward they were also screened for chronic diseases and given tips on healthy eating.

WoF communications representative, Zibele Bala advised the seniors to crawl in case of a fire in their homes. That, he said reduced their chances of smoke inhalation. They were also told to use sand instead of water to douse flames.

Mr Bala warned people not to leave their braziers unattended or make fires on windy days as they could spread easily. He pointed out that 90 percent of all unwanted fires were caused by human negligence.

But, he said, not all fires are bad. Fires, for example, can help maintain certain eco-systems if they burn under controlled conditions, and can be used as an efficient land management tool in most areas of South Africa.

“We want to empower people with knowledge about the dangers of fire, and also to address myths, change negative perceptions and alter behaviour patterns. We also conducted some light excises and stretches with the aim to encourage the seniors to exercise regularly. This event forms part of our community outreach programme where we educate people about fire, particularly township residents,” he said.

Treasurer of Gugulethu Progressive Development Forum (GPDF), Hartz Hlohla, said with summer looming, the forum asked WoF to equip the elders with information about dealing with fire.

Mr Hlohla said this was an annual event at which they strived to bring different stakeholders together to provide residents with useful information. He said they also hoped to give the seniors an opportunity to unwind.

The elders were tested for high blood pressure, sugar levels and for other chronic diseases which are common among senior citizens.

They were also advised of better ways to take care of themselves.

“We know that some elders are not treated well by their children and grandchildren hence we host this annual event, just to have a day where they can relax and spend some leisure time with their peers,” he said.

Nokhaya Xhathula, 73, said she was thrilled to have been part of the event as she learnt a lot about fire. Furthermore, she said after she took part in the exercise she felt younger, even though it was hard at the beginning.

Ms Xhathula said she would now start exercising on a regular basis. “Its not easy for us as elderly people to exercise because there are no clubs specifically dedicated to assist us. I wish they can host these events on a monthly basis or weekly basis so that we could train on a regular basis instead of once in while. I will ensure that I pass on the information that I have received to my children and grandchildren on how to deal with fire,” she said.