Firefighters are battling to contain a blaze that gutted part of the restaurant at Rhodes Memorial on Sunday. Picture: Leon Lestrade African News Agency (ANA)
Firefighters are battling to contain a blaze that gutted part of the restaurant at Rhodes Memorial on Sunday. Picture: Leon Lestrade African News Agency (ANA)

What to do if you get caught in a fire during an outdoor trip

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Apr 19, 2021

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The devastating Cape Town fire that spread through Rhodes Memorial, parts of Table Mountain and the University of Cape Town on Sunday has prompted travellers to be cautious when embarking on outdoor trips.

Lisette Lombard, communications manager at Old Mutual Insure, was lucky to escape when she got caught in the wildfire that broke out near Rhodes Memorial on Sunday morning. She had no idea what to do or where to run.

Her car, parked at Rhodes Memorial, was destroyed in the fire.

“I didn’t have time to look up an emergency number, so I sent out a live video on Twitter to ask for help, knowing that I would get a response quickly,” she recalled.

She was on a trail run when the incident unfolded.

“When I got to the King’s Blockhouse, I looked down and noticed a small plume of smoke coming from the direction of Rhodes Memorial. I was enjoying the view, thinking it was okay and contemplating going for a further run. When I looked down five minutes later, I noticed it was spreading very quickly.

“I started running down because I was afraid for my car, and when I got close to the parking, I heard two explosions. I then saw the flames in front of me, that’s when I knew I was in trouble,” said Lombard.

She found some policemen and firefighters who assisted her.

Old Mutual Insure shared some tips on how to keep yourself and your family safe when caught in a fire during an outdoor trip:

  • If you are outside, whether you are hiking or elsewhere, and realise you may be in trouble, cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth or piece of clothing.
  • If you don’t know which way to run and can’t tell where the fire is coming from, find an area without any bush or vegetation or plants.
  • If you know of a body of water nearby, try to get to it so that you can put it between you and the fire. Alternatively, find a ditch or a low spot on the ground. Keep low by lying face down and covering your body with things like wet clothing, soil, or mud.
  • Call for emergency services and inform your friends and family where you are by sending them a pin location. Consider the impact of the wind in the area that you are in.
  • If you are in your car, then drive to a place as far away from foliage as possible. Find an open clearing to park in. Close your windows and air vents. Smoke can get in, which is often the first thing that harms or kills people, rather than open flames. Lie on the floor of your car, cover yourself with clothing or a blanket and phone for help. Let your loved ones know where you are by sending a pin location.
  • Before going on a hike or outdoor trip, check with your insurer if they have an emergency assist service. Some insurers offer 24/7 emergency assistance that allows you to call for help at the click of a button through an app.

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