LIFESTYLE

What To Do If You Are Asked To Evacuate Your Home In A Fire

The Western Cape has been a hot spot for wildfires over the last few weeks. We spoke to Cape Town Fire & Rescue about staying safe in the case of an evacuation.

17/01/2017 11:48 SAST | Updated 17/01/2017 15:47 SAST
Nardus Engelbrecht via Getty Images

As fires continue to blaze in different parts of Cape Town, Western Cape Fire And Rescue Services have been called out at all hours to keep residents, property and wildlife safe. On Monday night, 52 firefighters were reportedly on the scene at the foot of Table Mountain battling a fire that was said to have started at about 9:30pm.

As strong winds fanned the flames, residents in the Vredehoek neighbourhood in Cape Town were alerted after firefighting activity started late on Monday night. Marc Weddepohl, 27, who lives at the foot of the mountain, said he first noticed the flames at about 10pm. "I heard a lot of sirens, so I looked out of the window and saw a red glow coming from what looked like just behind Herzlia School". Initially, he said, the blaze seemed to be contained but then the wind picked up again and the fire "started to spread quickly across and up the mountain".

While Cape Town Fire & Rescue did not make an official call to evacuate, Weddepohl says a number of residents decided to leave their homes. "It was quite chaotic as people were packing their cars and leaving. We thought it would be safe to stay but around 1am, but the smoke became too much in our apartment. There was black smoke and embers flying everywhere outside".

What to do when an official evacuation is underway

According to Cape Town Fire & Rescue spokesperson, Theo Layne, an official evacuation can only be called by the City of Cape Town's Fire & Rescue services. Here's what to do if you need to leave in an emergency:

"If we make a determination that there is property that is in the line of the fire and there is a definite threat to houses we will then get hold of Disaster Management, City Law Enforcement Agencies and then they will assist us with the evacuations where we determine it is necessary," he told The Huffington Post South Africa. In the case of an evacuation, the city will identify places for evacuated residents to go until it is safe to return to their homes.

While Layne added that what people choose to take with them is a "personal decision", it was advised to ensure you take all your important documents (identity documents, passports, degrees, etc) and ensure that pets and children are safe.

"If there is a situation that might not require an evacuation, we advise people to close their windows, close their doors and damp down any foliage with a garden hose so that the embers do not spark a new fire," said Layne.

After leaving their apartment, Weddepohl returned on Wednesday morning to "ash everywhere and a strong smell of smoke" and a number of residents returning home and "unpacking suitcases from their cars" after leaving their homes the night before.

While the Table Mountain fire is now under control, firefighters are on high alert given the high temperatures in Cape Town on Wednesday.