Emergency services reject claims that firefighters' death caused by negligence

2015-05-18 18:27
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Johannesburg – Johannesburg emergency services on Monday rejected claims by the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) that lack of equipment and negligence led to the deaths of two firefighters in a blaze in the city centre.

“We want to distance ourselves from these misleading and unfounded allegations,” said spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi. “The four firefighters affected by smoke inhalation had full protective gear, breathing apparatus and a portable radio.”

Two of the firefighters died from smoke inhalation while fighting a fire in a basement of the Nedbank Mall on Albertina Sisulu Street.

Another one was admitted to hospital with smoke inhalation. The fire began around 19:00 on Saturday and was extinguished around 03:00 on Sunday.  

Samwu's deputy regional secretary, Paul Tlhabang, said the firefighters went into the building without a hose they could have used to help them find the way out.

“It was pure negligence from the manager responsible,” Tlhabang said, adding that the first team on the scene decided not to enter the building after assessing the situation.

A manager was contacted and arrived about 45 minutes later. When he arrived he allegedly insisted firefighters enter the building, Tlhabang said.

“Our understanding is that as they were going to where the fire was, they experienced a shortage of oxygen but couldn’t get back because they got lost in there.”

Thlabang, who was at the scene on Sunday morning, said the firefighters had breathing apparatus, but that this provided enough oxygen for about 30 minutes, with another five to 10 minutes in reserve.

“We deeply regret what happened. It should have been avoided.”

Mulaudzi said the labour department was investigating the matter.

“Right now our focus is on helping the families to bury their loved ones and go on with their lives.”

He said the families still needed to give permission for the names of the two men to be made public.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  fire

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