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As dry, hot weather conditions persist across parts of South Africa, the risk of veld fires is increasing exponentially. While some of these may be mild enough to only require a decrease in speed, others can be large enough and close enough to the roads that driver safety could be at risk. The MD of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, provides some tips on how to drive through a veld fire should you find yourself in such a position.

  • Avoid areas that are affected by veld fires by listening to broadcasts and alerts and checking social media.
  • If you are caught in a fire reduce your speed as visibility will be severely reduced.
  • While it is recommended to always drive with your headlights on, double check that they are switched on so that your visibility is increased.
  • If the smoke is extremely thick do not attempt to drive through it. You risk colliding with other vehicles doing the same or risk driving off the road into the fire. Rather safely turn around and find another route.
  • Do not exit your car. Your car is the safest place to be if you are caught in a fire as it provides the most protection from heat and smoke.
  • Unlike portrayals in the movies, the petrol tank is unlikely to explode from the heat of a veld fire.
  • Stay low in your car 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 car is too extreme get out and move to an area which is already burnt, ideally keeping your body covered.
  • Give emergency vehicles priority on the roads and listen to their instructions. They have the most experience and will get you safely out of a veld fire. 
  • If you need to stop, find a clearing or a section of the roadside which has low vegetation. Turn your ignition off and lights on.

Have a look at the fire index map to see what risk level your area currently faces. The majority of South Africa, however, needs to be prepared to be caught in a veld fire while driving.