By: Selma Taapopi
The Walvis Bay fire department responded to 150 calls between 2020 and 2022, although the exact number of shacks destroyed is unclear. The coastal town has been hard hit by the shack fire incidents throughout the past years, which resulted in many people losing their lives and properties destroyed.
Walvis Bay as an industrial town has been faced with an influx of people from other parts of the country in search for greener pastures. This results in people having to build shacks in backyards. With up to 21 shacks in one yard, fire outbreaks have claimed people's lives and left hundreds of residents homeless. This is because the fire spreads rapidly to adjacent shacks and houses.
Senior fire officer at the Walvis Bay fire station, Werner Namiseb cited illegal electricity connections as a major fire hazard. Namiseb stated that a normal residence with a voltage of 220 to 230 provides electricity to 21 or 27 backyard shacks through one socket.
"Out of one socket, almost 21 to 27 shacks are being supplied with electricity. Imagine, even if you can feel that wire, it's so hot because it is under pressure," Namiseb explained to News on One.
Namiseb further stated that the outbreak of shack fires at the coastal towns is uncontrollable because the shacks are constructed with highly combustible materials such as wood,boxes and plastic. He stated that although members of the public are welcome to provide assistance in case of a fire outbreak, they should exercise caution as fire fighting is highly specialised.
"The material which shacks are built with, is wood, boxes and plastic. So at the end of the day, its highly combustible and within seconds you'll get all those shacks down in ashes and for us to respond to a shack fire, whether we respond after hours ,we will not really make much of a difference when it comes to shack fires because all materials there is highly combustible" Namiseb adds.
In efforts to educate the public about fire prevention and the importance of memorising emergency numbers, the fire brigade staff visit schools, churches and various institutions around the town.
The station also welcomes various schools, family and group visits to visit and learn more about fires.