Arson probe after Newcastle store gutted

2012-03-17 00:00

A NEWCASTLE traffic officer collapsed from smoke inhalation and a fracture while helping to fight a fire that gutted Value City Wholesalers, one of the town’s oldest businesses, yesterday morning.

Officer A.K. Anandaw donned a fire-fighter’s uniform to assist the town’s fire department.

Police spokesperson Captain Shooz Magudulela said the fire started at the back of the building. At 5.30 am a security guard at a shop across the street noticed smoke and alerted his superiors.

Fearing an explosion or the possible collapse of the massive building after the roof caved in and cracks appeared on the external walls, authorities cordoned off the entire block on Kirkland Street. St Oswald’s Secondary School next door to Value City was closed for the day and by late afternoon fire-fighters were still dousing the last of the flames.

Newcastle Mayor Afzul Rehman was on the scene and said he had asked for an in-depth analysis of the fire department’s performance.

“As the town grows we as a municipality should follow. This means upgrading to sophisticated equipment able to deal with such fires. We are in the process of purchasing specialised equipment which will do the job more effectively.”

Magudulela confirmed that a case of arson had been opened, but could not speculate on what might have sparked the blaze. He said forensic investigators from Pretoria would do an in-depth analysis.

Business owner Ismail Ameen was supported by his children and other family members who gathered outside the building to watch his life’s work, worth an estimated R50 million, go up in flames.

A calm Ameen spoke briefly, saying only that he and his management would await the outcome of the investigation.

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