Thatch poses big fire risk

The disaster last night when a reported 100 people at St Francis Bay lost their homes in a run-away fire should be a wake-up call for all South African home owners .   

John Graham, CEO of the home inspection company HouseCheck says the increasing use of thatch for house roofs and also for garden lapas poses a serious safety risk for both the people in the house and for neighbouring housing.  He says thatch roofing can be a real fire hazard if adequate safety measures are not observed.

Graham points out that the National Building Regulations require that any thatch roof larger than 20 square meters should not be placed within 4.5 meters of a boundary.   He says this regulation is often flouted in the case of large thatched structures such as lapas and entertainment areas.  Smaller lapas which are often built close to boundary walls are not covered by the building regulations, but can also endanger neighbours – especially in windy conditions.  

Graham says the following safety measures regarding thatched structure should be observed wherever possible:

  •  There should always be an adequate nearby water supply (together with a long hosepipe) and also fire extinguishers.
  • The thatch should be treated with a fire retardant.  In new thatch a fire resistant layer should be installed inside the thatch.
  • Chimneys should comply with safety regulations.
  • Electrical wiring should be confined to conduits and electrical services should not penetrate the thatch.
  • Adequate lightning conductors should be in place.

 Enquiries:  John Graham, HouseCheck.   083 3109 766 john@housecheck.co.za

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