Fire fa­tal­i­ties at 129 for the year

Depart­ment re­leases its sta­tis­tics

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - METRO - SHANICE NAIDOO [email protected]

MORE than 120 peo­ple have died in fires so far this year and 762 ar­son at­tacks have been recorded in the Western Cape dur­ing the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year.

Theo Layne, the spokesper­son for the fire depart­ment, said adult males had con­trib­uted the most to the stats this year.

About 65 men died as a re­sult of struc­tural fires, com­pared with the 26 adult fe­males who died. Fa­tal­i­ties for male mi­nors were at 25 to date, and fe­male mi­nors were at 13.

“The to­tal num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties recorded this year by the depart­ment sits at 129. This num­ber ac­counts for deaths from Jan­uary 1 to Novem­ber18,” said Layne.

The causes of these fa­tal­i­ties in­cluded:

◆ Cook­ing – three

◆ Can­dle, heat­ing de­vices and play­ing with matches – 26

◆ Sui­cide – 1

◆ Elec­tri­cal – 3

Stats from the depart­ment showed that there were no deaths for smok­ing in bed.

How­ever, they listed 46 un­de­ter­mined causes of fire.

“The SAPS are re­spon­si­ble for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion when a per­son suc­cumbs to death in a fire.

“A death in­quest case is reg­is­tered if no foul play is ex­pected and the in­ves­ti­gated case docket is then pre­sented to an in­quest court for a de­ci­sion.

“Dur­ing our in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the cause of the fire is es­tab­lished fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion with the Fire Depart­ment.

“How­ever, sta­tis­tics in this re­gard can­not be re­leased by this of­fice,” said po­lice spokesper­son An­drè Traut.

A sta­tion com­man­der at Good­wood Fire Sta­tion, War­ren Sam, said that if fire­fight­ers sus­pected foul play, they would alert the SAPS and also mo­ti­vate to their fire in­ves­ti­ga­tors why the in­ci­dent needed fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

He said they checked for things like ac­cel­er­a­tors, trails, files that may have been re­moved from the build­ing, cup­boards that may have al­ready been emp­tied and if valu­ables seemed to have been re­moved.

“We al­ways ask and check for what hap­pened be­fore the fire. Like if a per­son was there just be­fore the fire started and if peo­ple started run­ning away from the scene when we ar­rived.”

Sam added that should a body be found af­ter the fire, the fire­fight­ers would try and pre­serve as much ev­i­dence as pos­si­ble.

This is be­cause they didn’t know if the per­son had been dead be­fore the fire started, or had died in the fire.

Claire Lewis, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor at ForS­cight Foren­sics, said it was sur­pris­ing that there were so many un­de­ter­mined causes of fire, but that it was not highly un­likely if there were mul­ti­ple ig­n­i­tors or the fault or source could not be found af­ter sam­ples had been taken.

She said the com­pany had yet to have a case where the cause could not be de­ter­mined.

How­ever, Lewis said, one could never be 100% sure of the cause and they would look for wit­nesses to find out where the flames had started and where the smoke had come from first.

“When we get to a fire scene, the body is nor­mally gone and we would be shown where the body was and dig for sam­ples around there and look for the cause of the fire.

“If we get the start of the fire, we will be able to de­ter­mine the cause, for ex­am­ple an elec­tri­cal fault.”

Lewis said that while in­ves­ti­ga­tors might find fuel on the ground af­ter sam­ple tak­ing, it could not be im­me­di­ately ruled as ar­son be­cause that sub­stance may have been there be­fore the fire with good rea­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.