Poorest face possibly deadliest fire season this winter with stage 8 loadshedding threat looming

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A family who live in a shack keep warm on a cold winter's evening around an outside fire. Their house, overshadowed by huge electric pylons, has no electricity.
A family who live in a shack keep warm on a cold winter's evening around an outside fire. Their house, overshadowed by huge electric pylons, has no electricity.
Gideon Mendel/Corbis/Getty Images

You heard it right.

It’s not a rumour, it’s not false news. It’s not enough that we’re facing a bleak winter with unemployment at nearly 33%, the highest in the world, and a terrifyingly spiking cost of living. But we can also look forward to Stage 8 loadshedding, according to Eskom.

“If unplanned outages averages to 18 000MW, loadshedding might be required every day and might be implemented up to Stage 8. Eskom emphasises that the 18 000MW scenario that could culminate in Stage 8 is an ultimate worst case scenario that Eskom is working tirelessly to avert at all cost; by all means necessary,” the state power utility announced on Tuesday, 18 May 2023.

“Efforts are underway to return a number of units from outages to mitigate the worst case scenario of 18 000MW or above from materialising. Eskom will also keep planned maintenance at a maximum of 3 000MW during the winter period,” said Eskom Group Executive for Transmission, Segomoco Scheppers, during the State of the System and Winter Outlook.

For the many poor who cannot afford off-grid solutions such as solar energy, unique power supplies and gas, they have to depend on paraffin and fire – a hazard during the winter season in South Africa.

Read more | Candles, fire drums and open flames - how to keep your home safe during fire season

It’s vital to, in your attempts to keep warm this winter, also keep safe. Here are a few tips on how to be safe this winter:


Fire safety and security solutions supplier Chubb’s 12-point guide to fire safety advises the following:

1) Never leave a flame unattended.

2) Never leave children around candles or matches unsupervised.

3) Keep a fire blanket and suitable extinguisher handy in the kitchen.

4) Avoid wearing baggy clothes while cooking, and around heaters.

5) Never smoke in bed, and put out all cigarettes before you sleep.

6) Have an escape plan. Make sure you have more than one escape route.

7) If you have gas, oil or coal-burning appliances, ensure your home is properly ventilated.

Read more | 7 ways to help someone who is being electrocuted

8) Turn off portable heaters and gas and electric fires before going to bed.

9) Fit a fire alarm in your home. Test your alarm regularly and change the batteries at least once a year.

10) If you have a fireplace, make sure the fireguard is secure and in place.

11) Keep heaters away from furniture and curtains.

12) Use your common sense.

If a fire breaks out . . .
  • Firstly, get everyone out of the venue and call the Fire Service on 107. Use emergency exits.
  • Then, if it’s a small fire, try to fight the fire if you are able.
  • Remember, smoke is the big danger. When passing through a smoke-filled area, keep low to avoid the rising smoke. Take short breaths through your nose.
  • Try to cover your face with a damp cloth or handkerchief. Smoke can be blinding – try to feel your way along with the back of your hand until you locate a door.
  • If your clothes catch fire, don’trun – wrap yourself in a coat orblanket and roll on the floor.
  • Once out of the building, don’t go back.
  • Before leaving a room, feel the door through which you want to escape with the back of your hand. If it’s hot, or if you see smoke at its edges, don’t open it.
  • If the door is cool, the door is cool, avert your face and open it slightly. If smoke rushes in, shut it.
  • Leave by another exit to the outside or wait at a window for rescue.
  • Stuff wet clothes at the bottom of the door, open the window slightly, and hang out a sheet to attract attention. If conditions worsen, wrap your legs in a coat and hang out of the window. Don’t jump!
  • If you are trapped, do not panic!

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