Fire dept criticised after blaze leaves Newcastle stores gutted

2013-03-25 00:00

LANDMARK businesses in Allen Street, Newcastle, were destroyed by a fire which yesterday raged through the business area, incinerating everything in its path.

Three stores were gutted by yesterday afternoon.

Newcastle’s main street had to be cordoned off as the fire took on a life of its own and spread rapidly.

The blaze is alleged to have started at one of the shops on the same street.

Amin Shikder said he was in his shop when the fire started.

“We saw smoke coming from Bonanza and realised that something was wrong.”

As the fire spread, community members rushed to assist fire-fighters trying to douse the flames.

While some witnesses applauded their bravery, others expressed concern at the lack of crowd control and blamed poor planning and execution by the fire department for the fire getting out of hand.

“We called for additional trucks, but only one was sent. The other trucks came much later when the fire was too far gone,” said one witness.

Four fire trucks were at the scene. When the tankers ran out of water a fifth fire engine, privately owned, came to help.

It took fire the department and community members more than three hours to bring the fire under control.

Mandla Sithole, strategic executive director for community services at the Newcastle Municipality was at the scene. He acknowledged tht there had been certain irregularities when it came to fighting the fire.

“I will ask for a full report on Monday morning. As the municipality we will have to go back to the drawing board and re-look at some of our methods used in fighting fires,”

Factory Shop Supplies owner Ahmed Randeree expressed shock at the incident and said he was still coming to terms with what had happened. Randeree was supported by family and friends throughout the ordeal.

Newcastle police spokesperson Warrant Officer Luthuli said the cause of the fire was still not known and the damage had yet to be quantified.

“The scene will have to be secured and deemed safe before the forensic team can investigate the cause of the fire” Luthuli said.

The shop owners will probably try to salvage what they can. For the employees of the stores, an uncertain future awaits.

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