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Fire risks after load shedding and who foots the bill

15 May 2015 1:20 PM

How fire relief efforts are billed by Emergency Management Services, and how load shedding may increase electrical fire hazards.

On the back of several concerned calls around recent fire incidents in the City of Johannesburg , 702’s John Robbie spoke to Emergency Management Service’s official Nana Radebe, who confirmed that the public is billed for several costs relating to fire relief services as well as forensic expert David Klatzow, who says that electrical household fire hazards are common after periods of load shedding.

Nelly shares her recent experience

Nelly says that her house in Meadowlands caught fire on Sunday just after the of some scheduled load shedding. Nelly says that she switched off her plugs and appliances before she left her house and the police confirmed that the damaged was from an electrical fire.

My house was burned down on Sunday. We had load shedding at around 10 o’clock, and I left the houses just before 11 o ‘clock. At 3 o’clock I got a call from daughter telling me that the house was on fire. I drove back as quickly as I could and on my way back I phoned the fire service, who said they had already received a call. But they came two hours later; by the time they arrived the community had already put out the fire.

She says that she had only insured her house, but not the contents in her home. Nelly says that she has spoken to Eskom, who have gone to her home to investigate, and is planning to claim for the damages.

Listeners tell of their encounters with fire service billings

Thabo says that his house in burned in three weeks ago. Fortunately he was insured. He says the fire services came an hour after he had phoned and that he received an invoice of R 4 000.

Ayanda says that her grandmother’s house in Diepkloof caught fire three years ago. She says the fire brigade came tow hours after she placed the call and that three weeks later they received a bill from them for R 2 500.

She was 89 years old then. I called them to let them know that she is an elderly person and I had to submit a pension card and her identity document and everything was sorted out.

Nash says that most insurance policies cover the fire brigade costs, and that those who are billed can submit their invoices to their insurers.

The public must pay

Emergency Management Service’s Nana Radebe says that there is a charge after the fire brigade comes to extinguish any household fire. This cost covers the following:

  • The fire engines used at the scene
  • The amount of water released
  • The services of the fire fighter

Radebe explains that the tariffs are not covered by rate and taxes paid by the public, however, she says that there is a policy in place that makes provisions for poor people who cannot afford to pay.

Fire risks during power outages

Forensic expert David Klatzow says that there are various things that happen after load shedding that can cause a fire hazard. He says that he has encountered several fires, which occur immediately after load shedding ends, in the past.

Reasons for the increased risk:

  • A number of appliances don’t like being switched on and off and this affects the switch gear.
  • When households receive power again, they often receive what Klatzow refers to as “dirty power”.

Your house is designed to have certain frequency electricity and certain voltage electricity. It you’ve got generated electricity coming on and off, you often get ‘dirty power’. The voltage that is coming through is higher than usual. This becomes a problem, because it starts to degrade the insulation on various wiring.

Klatzow advises that, if homeowners know that load shedding coming, they switch the main switch off before it occurs.

Listen to the full conversation on the John Robbie Show:


15 May 2015 1:20 PM