Chas Everitt International - What to do about veld fires

Runaway veld fires are a major worry these days not only for farmers and foresters but also for an increasing number of people who own holiday homes in the countryside, and with much of SA being very dry currently, there is a serious fire hazard in many areas.

But, says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, there is much homeowners can do to protect their properties, starting by removing or cutting back all combustible material to create a safety zone of about 20 to 30m around the home.

"As a preventative measure, lawns should be kept short and fallen leaves, seedpods or flowers regularly raked up. And any tree branches that extend over the roof should also be removed and tree crowns should be thinned to leave a space of at least 5m between specimens."

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, he says homeowners should also be sure to have a hose that reaches to every part of their property, permanently connected to a reliable outside water source, tank or pump - and ensure that all family members and staff know where it is kept and how it works.

"Most importantly, everyone on the property, including children, should understand the serious nature of veld fires, know how to contact the local fire brigade or volunteers and especially have a set drill for getting out and away safely when an out-of-control fire poses a sudden threat.

"Similarly, if there is advance warning of fire spreading to the area and you are advised to evacuate your property, your first response should be to make sure all family members are wearing protective clothing, that you have emergency supplies such as drinking water with you, and that someone outside the danger area knows that you are leaving and where you are planning to go.

"Then - and really only if you have time - hose down everything within 5m of the house, place a lawn sprinkler on the roof, and lock your doors before you go."

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