As the long drought and hot, dry summer continue, the Mustadafin Foundation is urging residents to be cautious when using candles and gas-operated items to prevent fires and the subsequent loss of homes.

On Thursday January 12, the foundation donated food hampers and crockery to the families who lost their homes in the Valhalla Park fires in December.

The fire swept through the settlement in 7de Laan on the Day of Goodwill, December 26, and displaced about 640 residents, destroying everything they owned including furniture, clothing, identity documents, marriage and birth certificates and school uniforms.

Director of the Lansdowne- based Mustadafin Foundation, Ghairunisa Johnston-Cassiem, said they had already donated blankets as well as mattresses, vanity packs and cooked food to those affected.

“They have lost everything so we are still looking at school clothing and stationery as well. We are urging people to make sure that their gas stoves are off; to put out fires and make sure that there are no children around when starting a fire. Don’t throw your lit cigarette out of the car if you are driving. Put buckets of sand in between the houses so that if there is a fire, it won’t spread,” said Ms Johnston-Cassiem.

“Just from December up till now we have had 49 fires already all over. We can prevent it if we are cautious and do the right thing. We want to thank the community for their support,” she said.

Vice chairperson of the Valhalla Park United Front, Peter Daniel van Wyk said the residents urgently needed school uniforms for their children.

He said the cause of the fire is still unknown.

“The people are very emotional because they have lost a lot. It’s very difficult to start all over. They have nothing left. All their personal items are gone. I think people need to stop making fires at night because it is very dangerous especially when the wind blows,” he said.

Resident Betty Felix, 65, who shared her shack with five other people, said she had lost all her furniture, clothing, food and medication.

“I am happy to be here today to receive this,” she said about the Mustadafin Foundation donation.

Another resident, Esmerelda Van Wyk, 47, said she and the eight people who lived in her shack also lost all their belongings.

“I lost everything. I am happy to be here but I am saddened at everything that I lost, I have to apply for all my documents again,” she said.