Informal settlements (ISs) are a high-risk environment in which fires are often seen. In 2019 alone, 5544 IS fires were reported in South Africa. One of the main problems, when investigating an IS fire, is determining the fire cause. In the last 15 years, approximately 40% of the fire causes were classified as ‘undetermined’ in South Africa. Furthermore, the cases where the fire causes have been determined, do not provide the necessary information to comprehend why the fire started. This paper seeks to gain better insight with respect to fire causes by analysing the fire risk perception of IS inhabitants. To this end, a survey that was conducted in 2017, consisting of data from 2178 IS households, that were affected by a large-scale fire, was analysed. The survey consisted of questions relating to the fire risk perception with regards to the settlement in general, to the inhabitants’ own household, and about measures that could reduce fire risk. The analysis suggests that (a) the survey’s risk target had a strong influence on risk perception, (b) the inhabitants’ fire risk perception of their settlement is similar to that of firefighters in previous research, (c) the risk mitigation demands are more focused on decreasing the consequences of the fire than on the occurrence of a fire event, (d) the national fire statistics are not capturing the causes of real fire incidents, and (e) improvements to the documentation process after a fire event could provide critical information for the implementation of prevention measures.
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