Fire strikes safety fear

2016-02-09 06:00
A house in Wagtail Street in New Horizons was gutted in a blaze in December which also damaged the neighbours’ homes.  PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

A house in Wagtail Street in New Horizons was gutted in a blaze in December which also damaged the neighbours’ homes. PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

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Two families are living in damaged homes in the Breaking New Ground housing project after a blaze gutted their neighbour’s house just before Christmas.

The New Horizons residents say they have not been helped enough after their homes were damaged in the fire. They feel they have been left in the lurch by the City of Cape Town.

The semi-attached homes of the two families are on each side of the neighbour’s. They alleged their neighbour committed arson by setting his own house alight.

According to the neighbours the fire was started on purpose as part of a love triangle saga involving the couple who lived in the house between the two families.

“Apparently the fire was started by the man who lived next door who was upset with his girlfriend, who lived with him, because she had a new partner. He then decided to set the room alight in which she lived,” Charles says.

Theo Layne, spokesperson for the City’s fire and rescue service, says “the fire was caused by a cigarette which ignited bedding and other items as indicated by the officer in charge at the incident”.

“We confirm that firefighters attended to a fire at Wagtail Street, New Horizons on Monday 7 December. The incident occurred at about 12:35.”

The City gave the fire victims temporary housing in shacks, but partners Tougeeda Hendricks and Taliep Charles say they are too afraid to leave their home alone as unsavoury elements have been seen hanging around at the ruined house next to theirs – the house which was totally engulfed in the fire. It poses a safety risk for their family.

“I have not been able to get a decent night’s sleep since the fire. The house which was burnt down is now just an attraction for the wrong elements who come here to smoke and who knows what. I do not feel safe,” Hendricks says.

She adds they have tried to get help to have the section of their house repaired that was damaged by the fire.

“The fire affected our kitchen roof and cracked the walls too. Now we are waiting for people to get back to us to let us know when they can fix it, but we’re into our third month already living like this and there have been no answers,” she says.

Charles says he has had to close up a gaping hole in the roof himself to keep debris from falling into their house.

“We couldn’t leave the hole just like that because when food is made this dust and debris fall onto the cooking pots. It’s definitely a safety hazard and something needs to be done to ensure our home is safe again,” he says.

Charles says his family was lucky to salvage most of their belongings as Hendricks’s son was at home at the time.

“But now most of our belongings are with my parents, at my brother’s house and also at friends’ places here in New Horizons. But we cannot move it back into the house if we are not sure if or by when they will be fixing the house,” Charles says.

Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for human settlements, says the Breaking New Ground beneficiaries are property owners and “are responsible for repairs and maintenance”.

“Beneficiaries are responsible for any maintenance, insurance, repairs and the safeguarding of their houses and premises as it is their private property.

“However, after the fire occurred, the City, on humanitarian grounds, arranged for the family to be issued with a building kit to provide temporary shelter.

“The City is looking at various options to see if the family can be assisted in any way,” Van Minnen says.

Grassy Park police spokesperson Warrant Officer Wynita Kleinsmith confirms the incident was also reported at the police station.

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