Don't blame us, KZN fire service says
Bevan Lakay, News24
Cape Town - Emergency fire and rescue services who responded to a fire where the Umkhanyakude district municipality offices in Mkuze in KwaZulu-Natal burnt down are refusing to take the blame after being accused of being too slow to respond.
The municipality's finance offices were completely destroyed by the fire early on Thursday.
The municipality's Mayor Jeff Vilane had claimed that it took too long for firefighters to respond to the fire that had started at 02:00.
"We are very unhappy that it took too long for them to respond. Rural metro offices are not far from our municipal building," he said.
But the managing director of rural metro emergency services has refuted the claim, saying the nearest fire station is 50km away, and rescue services responded to the call immediately.
MD Chris Gilbert said that emergency services are not situated close by, as Vilane had claimed, but rather a control centre dealing with calls and the dispatching of services.
"The control centre in fact had to be evacuated as well because of the proximity to the fire", Gilbert said.
"The controller should be commended for the handling of the situation, and co-ordinating of fire services, despite the evacuation," he added
"The closest fire station is 50km away, in Jozini, but firefighters got the fire under control within 30-45 minutes of arriving," Gilbert said.
He said that fire investigators and SAPS forensics investigators are working together to determine the cause of the blaze.
Earlier, authorities claimed it was likely the offices were deliberately torched to destroy evidence.
"A third force element is strongly suspected to be behind the burning of Umkhanyakude district municipal offices," Co-Operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube said.
She said the fire coincided with a probe into maladministration and financial mismanagement which had left the municipality bankrupt.