There is no existing global database of informal settlement fires. Due to this global lack of data, it is difficult to gain an overview of the frequency and human impact of fires.
The IRIS fire project is working towards a fire detection method using remote sensing as a first step towards the compilation of information on these fires. In the meantime, we have begun collating news reports of informal settlement fires in the global online English language new media to give an overview of the global extent and human impact of these fires.
By having an idea of the number of informal settlement fires per year in Cape Town versus what we see in the media, we know that the problem of informal settlement fires extends far beyond what is reported in English language web news media, in Cape Town and most probably elsewhere too.
This data therefore most likely only highlights the most newsworthy fires.
If you know of any news reports of fires that are not listed here, please let us know.
The IRIS-Fire team, led by Lesley Gibson will be holding a fire workshop at the 2019 Festival of Creative Learning on Tuesday 19 February 2019.
Any University of Edinburgh staff or student may sign up for the event and but we think it may especially appeal to those with interest in: Fire, urban planning and design, geography and anyone interested in urbanisation in the Global South.
Fires in informal settlements are devastating to those living in these urban environments. After a fire, urban redesign (known as reblocking) can take place to facilitate the provision of formal services such as water and sanitation. Basic fire safety such as adequate spacing between homes may be implemented but innovative fire reduction design is usually not considered.
This workshop will introduce participants to the challenge of informal settlement fires, and will then enable participants to consider fire spread reduction in the designing of a reblocked informal settlement through practical learning and experimentation. Participants will work in teams to decide on a design which they will build out of prefabricated modelled dwellings. All teams will have an equal number of modelled dwellings and will be challenged to arrange the dwellings within a predefined space with a focus on fire spread prevention. At the end of the workshop a fire scientist will be invited to select a dwelling to set alight and we will observe the fire spread of each team’s modelled reblocked settlement and discuss the effectiveness of the various designs.
We have been working on the design of dwellings for the experiment and have a combination of steel and cardboard dwellings. Single dwellings, double dwellings and L-shaped dwellings.
The single dwellings are complete and testing of fuel load and optimal distance has started. Once we have the double and L-shaped dwellings welded together, we will finalise the number of dwellings for each team (it is looking like around 50 at the moment) and the density at which teams will need to arrange their dwellings.
There is plenty of creative learning happening for the organisers of this event and we can’t wait to welcome participants to learn alongside us.