IY becomes more fire smart

Nine of Thula Thulas new FireWise educators are Zuko Mfazwe, Lubabalo Sipendu, Sinelizwi Mxaka, Nosiseko Siswana, Thula Thula co-founder and FireWise project manager, Thembinkosi Xalabile, Siphesihle Blayi, Bonelwa Simanga, Nomvuyiso Dawusi, and seated, Gcinokuhle Madondo.

Thula Thula Hout Bay this week launched its campaign to spot and eradicate fire risks in Imizamo Yethu.

The FireWise Area Educator programme will see volunteers, each armed with a custom-made survey app on a computer tablet, going door-to-door to alert residents to fire dangers and give them solar lights to replace their hazardous paraffin lamps.

Thula Thula founder Joanne Chemaly said a fund-raising dinner earlier this year that raised R355 000 had helped to make the project a reality.

The programme’s 12 volunteers have been trained by Disaster Risk Management and Fire and Rescue on fire prevention, fire education and risk assessment. They also spent two days in the Disaster Risk Management Centre, in Goodwood.

“We are incredibly grateful for the partnerships that have been offered for us to get this project into the field,” said Ms Chemaly.

The project hopes to collect data on fire risks in Imizamo Yethu by surveying at least
2 000 households.

The volunteers will check levels of fire awareness among residents and show families how to prevent and respond to fires.

After three months, the programme will survey 500 households for feedback on its impact, gauging whether it should be rolled out elsewhere and allowing for future training to be tweaked if necessary.

“Families that indicate as being as the highest risk will be revisited and supplied with early warning devices,” said Ms Chemaly.

The survey is starting at the Hout Bay Sports Complex emergency displacement area (EDA) before moving to the one at Site 2 (Disa), as these areas don’t have electricity.

The volunteers said they were thrilled to be doing something that could help to save lives.

“It means helping the community being fire wise so that when a fire happens they know what to do. Saving one life is a huge thing,” said Zuko Mfazwe.

Nomvuyiso Dawusi, said: “I feel like I am here to protect the community, to help people to stop the fires from being so many.”

Resident Phatheka Samela said the solar light would make it easier for children to read books and study.

“I was using a paraffin lamp and it’s not easy to read or study. The Thula Thula educators taught me how to protect my family from the fire, and how to get everyone outside.

“They taught me to have a bucket of sand and water, and now I know when to use sand and not always water. I never knew to use sand, I only thought water was needed to kill fire.”