20 people displaced by fire

Fires in Bokmakierie and Bonteheuwel over two days last week left 20 people scrambling to find shelter and a one-year-old boy injured.

The fire in Assegaai Avenue, Bonteheuwel, broke out at about 1am on Sunday May 21 and affected 11 people.

Lazette Williams said the fire started when a gas stove exploded in her home.

Ms Williams said she had set water to boil but the stove began making sounds like it was going to burst, so she woke her family.

A boy who also lived in her wendy house then tried to put the fire out with bath water but was unsuccessful.

But Liezl Moodie from the City of Cape Town’s fire and rescue services said the cause of the fire was put down to an electrical short circuit.

She said four firefighting vehicles with 14 firefighters had been dispatched.

One of the people who also lost her home in the fire, Elvira Smith, said her bed, food, clothing and cupboards had been destroyed.

She said her one-month-old grandchild had also been in the house when the fire started but fortunately they escaped.

Ward 50 councillor Angus Mckenzie said the community had been generous with donations including blankets, baby formula, toiletries and clothing.

Unfortunately, a one-year-old boy who stayed on the other side of the wall was injured during the fire.

Mr Mckenzie said fortunately his mother worked in the healthcare profession and had been able to dress his wound.

He said illegal electricity connections were a big problem.

“The wrong cannot become the norm here. People need to start taking responsibility for their actions,” he said.

Another fire in 7th Avenue Bokmakierie on Monday May 22 displaced nine people.

The cause of the fire, according to Ms Moodie, was a candle that overturned and ignited bedding and other items.

She said that at 5.07am, three fire engines had been dispatched from Epping, Ottery and Salt River fire stations.

One of the residents, Daniel van Harte, said the fire had started in one of the wendy houses.

He said he had been asleep and was woken up by people shouting from the road.

He had tried to get things out of the wendy house but only managed to save the fridge, television and few clothing items.

Mr Van Harte said the fire brigade had stood on the corner for too long before coming to the house.

“They were standing there and took so long to come through.

“The people were shouting and swearing at them that this is the house but they only came 20 minutes later when whole place burnt down already,” he said.

He said the community tried to douse the fire with buckets of water but did not succeed because the tap ran dry.

“We lost all our cupboards which we are still paying off. I don’t understand how it happened because the electrical wires were fine,” he said.

Riedwaan Jaftha, whose wendy house also burnt down, lived with his wife and eight-year-old child in the house.

He said he had lost everything and only managed to save the microwave.

“The fire came right down, when I woke up it was at my door,” he said.

Mr Van Harte said he had had to carry Mr Jafta out of the house because he had passed out.

“We are glad that we are okay but we lost everything and it will cost us a lot to start again.

“All of the important stuff like our IDs and my marriage certificate was destroyed,” said Mr Jafta.

He urged everyone to be responsible when using gas stoves and candles in winter.

Mr Mckenzie said: “You cannot go to sleep knowing that your gas stove is still burning or that your heater or candle is still on. We cannot stop people from using these things but they have to use them responsibly.”

The displaced residents of Bokmakierie have been provided with starter kits to rebuild their wendy houses.

Abie Clayton, spokesperson of the Bonteheuwel Backyard Dwellers’ Association, said parents need to be vigilant when using candles as children are often intrigued by fire.

“They sometimes like to touch the flame and play with the fire.

“Parents need to watch them and make sure that it is out of their reach,” he said.

Mr Clayton also said that when using a gas stove, residents need to make sure that it is fully functional and must ask shop owners to check it out before refilling it.

“The washer can wear out over time so it must be maintained. Residents must also make sure that it is locked at all times before going to sleep” he said.