Fire-protection requirements for thatch-roofed structures

2 October 2017
Thatch roofing is a readily-available construction material providing excellent natural insulation from extreme temperature fluctuations, and is commonly used for lapas and hunting lodges.
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ASP Fire can assist at the design stage to ensure that the construction and positioning of the structure is compliant. In addition, existing thatch-roofed buildings can either be treated, or isolated by means of a fire-rated protection system, CEO Michael van Niekerk points out.

“We can inspect a thatch-roofed structure to determine whether or not it has been erected in accordance with the regulations,” van Niekerk elaborates. Recommendations will be made where the structure or buildings close by do not comply fully.

“The secret to a cost-effective fire-prevention strategy for thatch-roofed buildings is proper planning. Involving a fire consultant at the outset of a project will ensure that you do not have to spend large amounts in order to comply. If you are unsure whether a thatch-roofed building is compliant or not, simply contact ASP Fire, and we will gladly assist you,” van Niekerk emphasises.

In terms of the regulations, safety distances between thatch-roofed structures and other buildings need to be maintained so that a burning lapa cannot ignite a nearby building. A small lapa must be at least 1 m away from a building’s boundary, while lapas greater than 300 m2 must be at least 4.5 m away.

A thatch roof will need to be treated with a fire-retardant system if it is too close to a neighbouring building. In some instances, a fire wall may have to be erected, or fire-rated cladding applied to a nearby building if the risk of a fire is still too great.

Very large thatch-roofed structures in lightning-prone areas require additional protection, especially where metal-wire sways are used to bind the thatch material to the structure. “Your insurer will require a certificate of compliance obtained from the local fire service authority to confirm that you comply with the regulations for lapas. In certain cases, they will carry out an inspection to verify the compliance,” van Niekerk explains.

Thatch roofing that has not been treated with an approved fire-retardant system can ignite when burning embers from a nearby bushveld fire land on it, for example. However, the most likely cause of a fire is due to the failure of electrical equipment inside the lapa.

This is often the case when the electrical installation is not carried out by a certified electrician, or where the testing of earth-leakage equipment or general maintenance of electrical equipment or lighting is not undertaken. Braai or fireplace chimneys that pass through the thatching also have to adequately insulated in order to prevent fires.

Spiders and insects that inhabit lighting or electrical equipment in an outside lapa create a risk of a short-circuit of the electrical equipment, which may result in a fire. Fridges and freezers in lapas run 24/7, and also pose a risk of a fire where insects compromise electrical circuits. “It is recommended that all electrical equipment in a lapa be connected to an earth-leakage circuitbreaker, and that regular pest control is conducted,” van Niekerk advises.


Notes to the Editor
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About ASP Fire
ASP Fire operates across the entire African continent from its Gauteng base, providing professional, accredited fire risk management and support to its clients. ASP Fire designs, installs and maintains a full range of fire detection and suppression equipment suited to clients’ needs. ASP Fire provides a holistic, proactive and preventative fire solution based on integrated fire risk assessment, training and consulting, with the installation and maintenance of fire detection and suppression systems that meet SABS, NFPA, FPASA, FDIA and SAQCC standards.


ASP Fire Contact
Michael van Niekerk
Phone: +27 (0) 11 452 2169
Cell: +27 (0) 83 779 1701
Fax: +27 (0) 86 505 1030
Email: michael [at] aspfire [dot] co [dot] za


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NGAGE Public Relations
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Email: nomvelo [at] ngage [dot] co [dot] za


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