SA predisposed to mega-fires, study finds

The research was commissioned by short-term insurance company Santam.

Working on Fire firefighters battle a fire near Franschhoek in the Western Cape on 19 February 2019. Picture: @wo_fire/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - A study has found that South Africa is predisposed to mega-fires.

This was one of the findings of a probe into the 2017 Knysna fire disaster.

The research was commissioned by short-term insurance company Santam after seven people died as a result of devastating runaway fires in Knysna In June 2017.

More than 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the Southern Cape town.

In an effort to understand the cause of the destructive fire, insurance company Santam collaborated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Research Alliance for Disaster and Risk Reduction and Stellenbosch University's Fire Engineering Research Unit.

Santam's chief underwriting officer, John Melville, said the results of the study could be used to help mitigate loss of life and property.

“Things like building the standard layout of communities can all be done in such a way that the risk and the impact of wildfires in the environment can be significantly reduced,” said Melville.

Insurance claims that resulted from the 2017 wildfires in Knysna amounted to around R2.5 billion.

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)