Thatch-roofed structures face increasing insurance challenges due to fire risk

Thatch-roofed structures face increasing insurance challenges due to fire risk
ASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk

Insurance companies are increasingly leery to insure thatch-roofed structures, says ASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk. The danger posed by thatch in terms of fire risk was starkly illustrated recently when the Radisson Hotel in Hoedspruit was struck by lightning. “The only factor preventing a disastrous fire was the presence of an intumescent coating on the thatch, but there was still significant water damage in putting the fire out,” highlights van Niekerk.

“While thatch was great ten, 15, maybe 30 years ago, it has actually lost its flavour with insurance companies,” he points out. “My recommendation to clients is simply to replace it, as it just causes such a headache from a fire management and insurance perspective.”

Advancements in insulation materials and technology present more viable alternatives to control the temperature of a house or building. For example, a thatch-roofed structure can be covered with metal tiles to stop any fire from propagating. However, this will not stop a fire spreading inside.

Van Niekerk points out that both the outside and inside surface of thatch needs to be protected by treating it every five years with a fire retardant and ensuring that the electrical supply is maintained properly.

While thatched structures are common in high-end game reserves, van Niekerk reveals that one client in this sector has decided to forego thatch due to the fire risk and insurance challenges. “The client simply considered it not viable as it also posed a business risk,” explains van Niekerk.

Most commonly used for lapas, ASP Fire can assist to ensure that the construction and positioning of the structure is compliant. In addition, these can either be treated or isolated by means of a fire-rated protection system.

“We can inspect a thatch-roofed structure to determine whether or not it has been erected in accordance with the regulations,” adds van Niekerk. 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 structures is proper planning. Involving a fire consultant at the outset means that compliance need not be costly in the long run. If you are unsure whether a thatch-roofed building is compliant or not, simply contact us and we will gladly assist you. We can also provide advice where you wish to remove any such structure safely,” concludes van Niekerk.