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How to drive through a veld fire

As dry conditions prevail in parts of South Africa, water restrictions are enforced and temperatures rise, so does the risk of veld fires. Drivers who are caught in the smoke of a veld fire are at risk of a crash owing to limited visibility.

Drivers who are caught in the smoke of veld fires are at risk of a crash owing to limited visibility.

Firemen fighting veld firesThe best way to avoid becoming a statistic in this situation is to be prepared and learn how to react if you are caught in a fire. The MD of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, provides some tips on how to drive through a veld fire.

  • Listen to traffic broadcasts and avoid areas which are affected by veld fires as much as possible;
  • Certain toll routes also broadcast the news of veld fires on their social media channels;
  • If you are caught in the smoke of a veld fire, reduce your speed as visibility will be severely reduced;
  • While it is recommended to always drive with your headlights on, ensure your headlights really are on so that your visibility is increased. Also, in really thick smoke, switch on your emergency flickers;
  • If the smoke is extremely thick, do not attempt to drive through it. You risk colliding with other vehicles doing the same, or driving off the road and into the fire. Turn around and find another route;
  • Do not exit your vehicle. Your cab is the safest place to be if you are caught in a fire as it provides the most protection from heat and smoke;
  • Unlike popular portrayals in the movies, your petrol tank is unlikely to explode from the heat of a veld fire;
  • Stay low in your cab and keep the windows and vents closed while you wait for the fire to pass;
  • If, once the fire has passed, the smoke and heat in the cab is too extreme, get out and move to an area which has already been burnt, ideally keeping your body covered;
  • Give emergency vehicles priority on the roads and listen to the crews’ instructions. They have the most experience and will get you safely out of a dangerous situation;
  • If you need to stop, find a clearing or a section of the roadside which has low vegetation. Turn your ignition off and the lights on.
Tristan Wiggill
Special Features Editor at Business Fleet Africa