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Apart from accidents caused by paraffin, people have also died in their houses this winter by breathing in smoke from coal fires in braziers (tin drums with holes). Smoke fumes from coal are poisonous and are especially dangerous inside your house when all the windows are closed.  In May this year, 35 people were left homeless at the Du Noon informal settlement in Cape Town after their shacks burned down. Four days after this accident, a baby of two months old and a seven-year old child from Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, died after their mother's shack caught fire.

These are only some examples of accidents that happen every year when people try to keep warm in winter.


People who use paraffin for cooking and warming their houses are especially at risk of having fire accidents at this time of the year.

The Paraffin Safety Association of South Africa says overcrowded shacks with lots of people and things can burn easily. They say people should always remember that paraffin is dangerous and that they must be careful when using it.

To help people avoid accidents, the Paraffin Safety Association has put together safety guidelines for using paraffin. They say understanding that paraffin is dangerous and following the safety tips could prevent accidents caused by paraffin.

Paraffin safety tips

  • Never leave a paraffin appliance switched on unattended.
  • Before leaving a room, always turn off paraffin stoves or lights.
  • Always make sure paraffin appliances are placed on a flat and solid surface so that they cannot easily be knocked over.
  • Do not put a cloth under a paraffin appliance. A child or pet could pull it and knock it over. The cloth will burn and fuel the fire.
  • Always have a bucket of sand nearby when using a paraffin appliance to help put out a fire if necessary.
  • Do not use water to put out a paraffin fire. It will not put the fire out but can make matters
    worse by spreading the flames. Paraffin fires can only be put out by using sand or a fire extinguisher.
  • Keep lighters and matches in places where children cannot reach them.
  • Never store paraffin near matches, lighters or paraffin appliances that are lit.
  • Do not leave children alone near a paraffin appliance. Make sure children understand that paraffin is dangerous.
  • Try to buy paraffin in a container with a childproof or safety cap. Never store paraffin in a used milk bottle or cool drink container; a thirsty child could mistake it for water or cool drink and drink it.

- Muzi Mkhwanazi

For more information, call the Paraffin Safety Association at
021 424-3473