All bets off: popular tote engulged in flames

2012-07-25 00:00

IT was a sad day for Terry Peate, owner of Terry Peate Racing in Howick Road opposite the Royal Showgrounds, as he watched his business go up in flames yesterday.

“I’m feeling depressed,” he told The Witness as thoughts of starting from scratch went through his head. “We’d have to redo the building.”

The double-storey building in the Voortrekker High School premises caught fire yesterday morning, leaving the entire top floor razed.

The fire did not damage the deck, but the kitchen and dining area were all turned into embers.

A distraught Peate watched helplessly as firemen fought to extinguish the flames. The smoke from the blaze wafted high into the sky over Pietermaritzburg.

Traffic became gridlocked in the city centre during the morning rush hour as Howick Road and Commercial Road were closed.

Terry Peate Racing is a betting facility that offers a wide selection of sporting events.

Peate calls it his “home”.

Peate said he received a call from a friend at 7.30 am to tell him that the building was on fire.

“When I arrived here I saw the huge pall of smoke and I realised that this was more than a small fire.”

He has been operating for over a decade.

“This has been my home for 12 years and we have a lot of clientele.

“But all of a sudden you’ve got nothing.”

He said his biggest concern was his clients. He estimated that it could take four months before the tote was back on track and fully operational.

A Royal Showgrounds employee, Sanjay Rajcoomar, called the fire department when he saw the flames at around 6.45 am.

Rajcoomar said that he first thought the smoke was mist. When he realised it was coming from the burning building, he dialled 112.

Senior division officer at Msunduzi Fire and Rescue, Essack Khan, said they suspect the fire might have started in the kitchen. Investigations are under way.

Three fire engines were at the scene to douse the fire.

The fire and rescue department believes that the fire had been burning for some time as the plaster and the walls were breaking up.

The principal of Voortrekker High School, Jan Nel, said the fire would not affect the school.

The building is also used to store the school’s sporting gear which was saved. Nel said they do not suspect arson.

Peate said he would use a temporary structure this weekend to contiune with the business.

Customers who want to bet or cash in can use branches in Mountain Rise and Raisethorpe.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

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