Runaway fires in Overcome Heights

Runaway shack fires have proven to be one of the top environmental hazards in South African informal settlements in the 21st century. They are deadly, financially costly, and feed vicious underdevelopment cycles that facilitate problematic social environments, as is starkly the case in Overcome Heights. The settlement represents an ideal environment for shack fires to both begin and spread. For example, inaccessibility to basic provisions and infrastructure has led to the development of dangerous informal electrical connections, whilst drinking culture is often responsible for the neglect of heat sources such as stoves and naked light bulbs. The problem of runaway fires in Overcome Heights is exacerbated by the extreme density of shacks, which are often made using flammable materials such as wood and netting, reflecting both the inability and perceived futility of building sustainably structured housing in the settlement. Shack fires create social uncertainty and instability, which augment wider social problems of crime and violence that have continuously plagued Overcome Heights.