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A comparative study of fire risk emergence in informal settlements in Dhaka and Cape Town

Catastrophic fires are frequent in informal settlements around the world, where one billion people live. A complex adaptive systems framework is developed to untangle the emergence and manifestation of fire risk. Insights from case study analysis in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Cape Town, South Africa reveal the importance of interdisciplinarity, broad participation, and systems mapping when addressing safety of complex systems.

This project was supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation under the “Safer Complex Systems – Call for Case Studies – Stage 1B (Research) scheme” Comparative study of fire risk emergence in informal settlements in Dhaka and Cape Town.

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The Invisible US Fire Problem

Often thought to be a feature of development in rapidly urbanizing Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), the phenomenon of fire among populations living in ‘slum conditions’ is a feature of American cities, and across the spectrum from urban areas to rural areas.

But news headlines seldom tell the stories of people living in these conditions suffering disproportionately from fire. Reframing this issue through a regulatory lens can offer new perspectives – what are the stories of fire in under-regulated buildings and the fire challenges related to homelessness, especially in unregulated and non-sheltered conditions?

This report outlines what we know and do not yet know about the interactions between regulatory blind spots, ambiguous application of existing fire safety regulatory regimes and informality in the US. By defining and framing these matters, this work aims to discover the breadth and depth of research and action needed to understand and ultimately address fire safety issues of insecurely and vulnerably sheltered populations in the US – the invisible US fire problem.

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A Look Back at Kindling's First Year
First Annual Review Report


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'Fire from the Dragon' 
Docummentary produced by Justin Sullivan in collaboration with the Western Cape Government to raise awareness of informal settlement fires in South Africa and some of the actions being taken to reduce fire risks.  Accessible here


European Fire Safety Community

Digital Summit 2020 - “Envisaging a Fire Safety Rating Scheme for Buildings”

Recording of breakout session

Does fire discriminate? A social justice approach to fire safety

2020 Global Shelter Cluster (GSC) Annual Meeting Session co-hosted by Kindling and Save the Children International

Recording of session

Strategizing Fire Safety in

Shelter & Settlements 


Arup event for which our founder, Danielle Antonellis was a panellist

Recording of session

Shocks + Stressors: A conversation about COVID, social justice, and climate

PyroLife International Symposium 2020 on Integrated Fire Management

Shifting Paradigms to Address Fire Safety Inequalities, Danielle Antonellis

Blog on event by Hugo Lambrechts

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