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Horror Knysna fire: 12 ways to handle fires on the road

2017-06-08 12:48

KNYSNA FIRES:Huge fires are sill raging through Knysna and Plettenberg Bay as motorists try to make their way through the areas. Image: Twitter

Knysna - Fires fanned by high winds have swept through Knysna in the Western Cape, killing three people, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of up to 10 000 people, authorities said on Thursday.

The blazes in Knysna began after a storm hit the region around Cape Town on Wednesday, battering shores with big waves and dumping heavy rains that caused flooding in some areas.

huge blaze is also affecting parts of Plettenberg Bay. The fires are causing horrific damage to property and destroying forests, while heavy smoke is also affecting motorists attempting to pass through the area. 

There have been reports of embers raining down on roads as motorists try and make their way through Knysna and the affected areas.

LIVE: #KnysnaFire claims life of 3-year-old

Fire risk

To protect yourself and your occupants, we spoke to Arrive Alive editor Johan Jonck and Vishal Premlall, director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).

Premlall says: “If you smell fuel, this could mean a fuel line is loose or there is a fuel pipe leak. Faulty controls may be indicative of a problem with the vehicle. Make sure to look out for warning signs on your dashboard, a spike on your temperature gauge and smoke or heat waves coming from your bonnet."

'Stay calm and don't panic'

Fires along the road: Here's what to do

1. If you're travelling during a fire outbreak, check to see what the weather conditions will be like in the area and listen to local radio stations for updates on any fires in the area.
2. Keep maps of your route and frequent travel destinations in your car, and know at least two ways of getting anywhere. If an emergency happens and your primary route of travel is closed, you'll already know another way to get where you're going, or you'll only need to pull over and read the map to figure it out.
3. There will be limited visibility due to smoke and there may be large volumes of slow-moving traffic – drastically reduce speed, drive carefully and be on full alert.


4. If visibility becomes very poor, don’t attempt to drive through thick smoke or flame – many accidents occur when drivers attempt this, only to find that they run off the road, collide with stationary obstacles such as other vehicles, or are involved in head-on collisions with other vehicles attempting to drive through from the opposite direction.
5. Put your headlights and hazards on so that you are as visible as possible to other vehicles, particularly fire tankers / emergency workers.
6. If you are caught in your vehicle during a veld fire, your vehicle will provide a good degree of protection. Look for a clear area, preferably off the road (areas clear of grass or bush will not sustain fires of high intensity).
7. Do not leave the vehicle – people have lost their lives by exiting the vehicle, only to be trapped on foot in the open. Your vehicle will help to protect you from radiant heat, which is the main hazard. Close all windows and vents. Switch the ignition off, it is unlikely that the fuel tank will explode from the heat of a passing veld or grass fire.
8. Stay in the vehicle, as low down as you can get, until the fire front has passed, then exit and inspect the vehicle for damage before proceeding.
9. If you are in the veld, away from your vehicle, and you see that a fire has started, move from the fire immediately.
10. Never ignore the fire, even if it seems far away - it can quickly become large and engulf you! The most dangerous situation to be in is when a veld fire is moving up a steep slope, and you are above it with bush and grass between you and the fire. It is estimated that every 10% increase in the gradient of the slope doubles the rate of fire spread.
11. If you feel threatened and you don’t think you can outrun the fire, or if you are surrounded, then find a ‘Safe Zone’.
A ‘Safe Zone’ can be an area that has already been burnt, or is completely clear of any fuel that can burn, such as a wide road or an old homestead. The clear area should be as large as possible.
12.Do not panic and run at the last minute! Remember that what will hurt you are the heat that the fire makes, and the lack of oxygen to breathe. Lie down on the ground, cover your head, breathe deeply before the smoke gets too close, and hold your breath when the fire passes over and around you. If you have blankets or extra clothing with you, try to cover any exposed parts of your body.

Click here for more veld fires and safety tips

What if your car is on fire?

Arrive Alive suggests the following if your vehicle is smoking/on fire:

1. Although this can be difficult it is important to stay calm and not panic.

2. If you notice the smoke or fire while your vehicle is moving, signal and pull over to the side of the road.

3. Make sure to turn off the ignition, this will stop the electric current and flow of fuel.

4. If the vehicle is on fire, move away from the burning vehicle. 

5. Call emergency services from a safe distance.

6. Be cautious of putting the fire out yourself. There is always a risk of an explosion and toxic fumes coming from the car. 

For more safety tips on the Arrive Alive website, click here.


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