Police share safety tips after elderly man dies in house fire

A 72-year-old man died during the fire at a double story building in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown).
A 72-year-old man died during the fire at a double story building in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown).
Image: Nelton Kivitts

An inquest docket is under investigation after an elderly man died in a house fire in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown) on Wednesday morning.

According to police, a 72-year-old man died during the fire at a double story building in Yeoman Street. His son escaped the flames. 

Eastern Cape police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender said the upper story of the house was completely gutted.

Police shared the following safety tips to avoid house fires when trying to keep warm in the cold weather:

Heater safety

  • Ensure that your heater is in good working order and that cords and other components are not damaged. If you use a gas heater, inspect it to ensure there are no leaks. If valves, pipes or other components of the heater are damaged, either replace the parts that can be replaced or buy a new heater.
  • Ensure proper ventilation when using gas heaters or other fuel burning appliances. Outdoor heaters should not be used indoors. Flammable liquids meant for other purposes should not be used to start a fire.
  • Never leave a heater unattended while on.
  • Do not place heaters on carpets or close to curtains, couches and other items that could easily be set alight.
  • Do not use makeshift heaters, stoves included, to keep warm.

Fireplace

  • Maintain it - have the chimney inspected and cleaned
  • Make the fire small enough to be able to control. Keep flammable items away and extinguish when going out the room.
  • Ensure there is proper ventilation in the room.
  • Put an appropriate screen in front of the fireplace as a safeguard as well as to prevent embers from jumping out.

Additional safety measures

  • Install smoke detectors and test them regularly
  • Keep a fire extinguisher at home.
  • Check your windows and ensure that they open easily.
  • Keeping a ladder at home is advised especially if you live in a multi-storey house.
  • Have an escape plan. Ensure all members of the family know what to do in a fire.
  • In case of a fire at home, sound the fire alarm if you have one and call emergency services. Exit the building. If caught in a smoke-filled room, get as low as possible to the ground and exit the house. You can also cover your mouth and nose with a moist cloth, to reduce smoke inhalation.

General fire safety

  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  • Candles are a common cause of residential fires. Often, the candle is placed in a plastic makeshift holder or simply stuck down on a table without a holder. Lit candles should be put in a proper non-flammable holder that cannot easily be bumped or blown over by the wind. It should not be placed near curtains or anything flammable.
  • Do not leave a candle burning if you go to bed or leave the property. Also, never leave children unattended near a lit candle or any fire for that matter.
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