Stay fire free and safe

Leandrea Louw
The Walvis Bay municipality fire brigade has a mammoth task when fighting fires and at the same time to educate the public.

Here are a few safety tips to prevent fire and what to do when a fire breaks out.

Fire occurs when combustion takes place. Combustion is the exact moment when the fire breaks out. How does it happen? Three things must be present for combustion to take place.

1. Fuel - such as wood, coal, paper, plastic, glass, petrol, paraffin, thinners and others.
2. Oxygen - in other words, ordinary fresh air. Fires cannot happen without air.
3. Heat source - the place where heat comes from- such as open flames, lighters, matches or “friction”- rubbing flammable things together.
Sometimes even the sun can cause a fire - when it shines onto glass or mirror.

What happens if a fire breaks out?

1. Warn the people inside and get out quickly
2. Try and put out the fire correctly, but do not put yourself in danger.
3. Call the fire brigade immediately from the nearest telephone, at 081 922 or 081 1220833
4. When the fire brigade arrives, you must stay well back that they can get on with putting out the fire.
5. Know your nearest fire hydrants and inform the firemen.
6. Keep the telephone numbers you need close at hand.

How do fires spread? There are three ways in which fires spread.

Heat can travel through solid objects such as corrugated iron on tin roofs.
Heat can travel in a straight line through the air, for example, a small fire in a room could cause the curtains to catch fire without actually touching them.
Heat can also cause smoke and hot gases to rise, and if they escape, the ceiling may catch fire because it gets too hot.

How do we prevent fires?

If possible homes should be built as far as possible from each other as possible (1.5 metres).
This helps to prevent fire spreading. Each house should have at least two doors or windows opposite each other, so you can escape from either side.
Materials that can catch fire easily, such as cardboard boxes, should be kept to a minimum.
Very flammable (catch fire easily) substances, such as matches, gas and paraffin, should be kept in a safe place, out of the reach of children.
Make sure your gas or paraffin cooking vessels are checked regularly.
In case of a gas leakage, close the cylinder valve and open doors and windows to disperse gas. Take the gas cylinder outside and make sure the whole gas appliance is properly repaired before using it again.
Don’t play with matches, cigarettes or cigarette lighters, gas or other cooking vessels without the supervision of any parent.
A large container or bucket full of water should be kept inside at all times.
A large container full of sand should also be kept for putting out fires caused by flammables (easily catch fire) liquid, such as paraffin and petrol and thinners.

Prevention is better than cure

Because wood and iron buildings catch fire which can spread easily. It is important to prevent and extinguish them while they are still small.
A wet thick sack or blanket soaked in water can be used to smother a small fire.
Do not obstruct fire hydrants by building or parking cars over them or throwing dirt into them.
If a fire starts, remember to help people first, then save your belongings.
Try to put out the in early stages- remember that ALL BIG FIRES START SMALL
Always keep spray cans away from any heat.
A spray can that explodes may cause serious burns.
Empty spray cans must never be thrown into a fire.
Never go to bed if the heater is still switched on or if a candle, lamp or fire is still burning.
Do not smoke in bed.
Keep portable shoves out of reach of children. And far away from curtains.
Never pull out the tank of paraffin refrigerator while the flame is still burning. Extinguish the flame at the top of the chimney, never at the tank itself.
Never ignore a gas smell. Test for a leak with soap solution, never burn a match.
Candles should be kept well away from materials which could catch fire, and candle holders should be used to stop them from falling over.

How do I put out a fire? Three elements must be present for a fire to start. So in order to put out a fire, one of these things should be removed.

Cooling -putting a fire out with water.
Like people, if you starve a fire, it will die. You do this by removing the fuel, by closing the valve of on a gas cylinder, or removing bush from the path of the fire.
Smothering - putting out the fires by taking away the oxygen (air) by covering with flames sand.