Having suffered 1 702 fires in the Drakenstein area over the last approximately two years – claiming the lives of 18 people and injuring a further 91 – Drakenstein Municipality has started a substantial rewards system for people spotting and reporting arsonists, whether these culprits have committed this crime wilfully or unintentionally.
Between 1 July 2015 and 30 September 2017, the Drakenstein area – covering Paarl, Wellington, Gouda, Hermon, Saron and Simondium – saw altogether 271 building fires, 191 informal settlement fires, 1 095 grass/bush fires, 69 vehicle fires, 5 train fires and 71 other related fires.
“As we are all aware, Drakenstein and other areas in the Western Cape are caught in the grip of an epic drought,” says Dr Johan Leibbrandt, City Manager of Drakenstein Municipality. “We also know that our fire risks increase as the drier, windier summer season kicks in. What adds to our fire-fighting operational challenges this year, are the severe water shortages the Western Cape is experiencing. That is why Drakenstein encourages our residents to be our eyes and ears on the ground, assist us in taking legal action again arsonists, and in the process, be rewarded.”
Whistle-blowers who provide information leading to the successful criminal prosecution of an arsonist or any person who committed a criminal act against Drakenstein Municipality, stand to be rewarded between R20 000 and R200 000. The amount of the reward will depend on criteria such as the extent of the damage that was suffered. All reports by whistle-blowers will be studied and considered by a committee under the chairpersonship of Gerrit Dippenaar, Chief Risk Officer, Drakenstein Municipality.
Whistle-blowers can call Drakenstein Municipality’s Reporting Hotline Number, 0800 428 429, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Crimes may be reported anonymously; however, if whistle-blowers want to be considered for rewards, they are asked to provide their contact details.
Drakenstein Municipality further encourages its community to support efforts to avoid fires by following these steps:
- Never leave any fire unattended.
- Minors should not be allowed to play with matches, lighters or open flames.
- No fire should be started by a minor without the supervision of an adult.
- In informal settlements a safe distance of at least 3m to 5m should be maintained between structures, to limit the spread of fire from one structure to another.
- All candles should be put out before you go to sleep.
- Familiarise yourself with the layout of your house and practice how to exit the building if there is a fire.
- Never touch any object that is warm to prevent injury.
- When a fire is detected the premises should be vacated immediately. No person should be allowed to return to a burning building.