The Sol Plaatje Fire department and the Northern Cape police have issued a warning to residents of informal settlements to be more vigilant in the wake of an apparent increase in shack fires in the province.

At least eight people have died in shack fires in the Northern Cape since the beginning of this year. Seven family members lost their lives in two separate shack fires in Kimberley.

The fire department is on high alert as fire incidents occur almost every day in the Northern Cape.

In March, a mother and her two children died in a shack fire in Snake Park. Two weeks later, 4 family members also perished in a shack fire in the White City informal settlement.

The deaths have left relatives distraught. Erika Malate, the aunt of Patricia Sekgolo who died in the fire with her two children aged 6 and 4 years old – Kitso and Bokhutlo, says the incident left a painful void in their hearts.

“I’m very sad because we were traumatised every day you see. But God knows alone what’s going to happen.”

The Fire Department says major causes of shack fires are the use of candles, gas and paraffin. The Sol Plaatje Municipality Fire Department’s Cameron Andrews says there are pre-cautions informal settlements residents can follow to avoid fires.

“The recommendation for the owner or the dweller in this shack would be to have a bucket or two buckets of sand inside his shanty for the immediate attack on his behalf, while we are responding to the scene. Preferably to have another bucket outside so they can use it to rapidly attack to extinguish the fire.”

The Northern Cape police spokesperson, Captain Sergio Kock, has confirmed that investigations into the shack fires are still ongoing and has urged shack dwellers to take precautions.

“The Northern Cape police are investigating three separate incidents where people lost their lives during shack fires. Therefore the police are humbly requesting the community please adhere to the following fire safety tips especially as we are experiencing extremely cold weather. Please do not make fires inside your shanty, be careful not to fall asleep with gas or electric heaters. we ask people to rather dress warmer during this cold winter months and use extra blankets.”

Residents have been cautioned to be more vigilant especially now during winter.

This week, a 50-year-old male in Pabalelo in Upington, also lost his life in a shack fire.

In the video below SABC speaks to officials