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THE fight against shack fires in Ivory Park, east of Johannesburg, received a huge boost last week when the city of Johannesburg handed safety kits to local ambassadors.
About 100 fire safety kits, known as Jozi kits, were handed out by the emergency management services (EMS) to safety ambassadors who are expected to promote safety awareness in the informal settlement.
These ambassadors come from Ivory Park informal settlement, which includes Sisonke, Mafelandawonye, Baghdad and Tokyo Sexwale.
The ambassadors were trained in fire safety and first aid, for which they received certificates. Sponsored by Fleet Africa, Jozi kits come in a 25litre bucket with a paraffin-safe stove, smoke alarm, solar lantern, paraffin container and heater.
Ambassador Thelma Namane, 40, lives in a five-roomed shack with nine children and her husband. Her shack has no electricity or running water.
"I'm happy with the training we received from the EMS. I will first train my family in fire safety and then my neighbours," Namane said.
"Shack fires are a big problem here. I witnessed my neighbour's child die of smoke inhalation. The training and Jozi kits will make a big difference."
EMS management, accompanied by Fleet Africa officials and a member of the mayoral committee (MMC), Elgina Ndhlovu, took a tour of shacks where fires had been a problem.
Ndhlovu said the main challenges in delivering emergency services in the area were small, unnamed roads and houses that were not numbered.
"I am in talks with MMC for transport Rehana Moosajee about the naming of streets," she said.
EMS spokesperson Percy Morokane, said over 500 Jozi kits had already been distributed in Alexandra, Princess Park and Diepsloot.
"We have established that five people with 25litre buckets of water can contain a fire until firefighters arrive at the scene," Morokane said.
Fleet Africa spokesperson Tasha Mooloo said her company had spent more than R300000 since their partnership with the EMS began.
"It is gratifying and humbling to see that we are not just giving money away but making a difference in people's lives," she said.
Last year the Ivory Park fire station responded to 19 shack fire calls, while only 5 have been recorded this year.
Two people have died in shack fires in the area since the beginning of the current winter season.
Last year shack fires claimed the lives of 5 people.