Journal article

Fire Risk in Informal Settlements: A South African Case Study

Publication Details

Author list: Morrissey James, Taylor Anna

Publisher: Open House International Association

Publication year: 2006

Journal: Open House International

Journal name: Open House International

Volume number: 31

Issue number: 1

Start page: 98

End page: 105

Total number of pages: 8

ISSN: 0168-2601



With the increased concentration of populations in urban areas and the consequent occupation of marginal land, largely by the poor, the need for effective means of understanding and managing urban risk is immense. This paper explores the existence and variability of fire risk in the informal settlement of “Imizamo Yethu”, an informal settlement situated in Cape Town, South Africa. The case study mainly analyses the factors influencing the conditions of risk. It highlights the need for a shift away from the hegemonic dialogue around so-called natural disasters and goes further to challenge the view of risk as an interaction between external, natural hazards and internally generated vulnerability. The paper explores how different factors affecting fire risk operate at different scales and the resulting importance of recognising and understanding intra-community and even intra-household variability of risk. In so doing, it becomes evident that for risk reduction strategies to be effective, focus cannot simply be placed on structural interventions, but must encompass elements of social development which are sensitive to current livelihood strategies.


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Disaster risk reduction, Informal settlements, Risk assessment, Risk factors

Last updated on 2021-11-02 at 12:53