Freakish fires terrorise family
Thamsanqa Magubane, The Witness
Pietermaritzburg - Mysterious fires that apparently ignite spontaneously have over the past two weeks destroyed the homes and belongings of a family in Hopewell near Thornville.
The freakish fires have burned through the Mthembu family’s main house, two low-cost houses in the yard and another low-cost house belonging to the children, across the street from the main family home.
The charred remains of some of their possessions - beds, sound system speakers, plastic and steel wash basins, food and clothes - lay in the yard on Sunday.
The steel basins had melted.
The remaining furniture that the family managed to pull out of the fire was strewn across the lawn as they kept watch over it.
Neighhbours, fire-fighters and managers from the Richmond municipality and uMgungundlovu district disaster management teams agreed that this was the first fire of its kind they have witnessed.
They said they had seen the fire start spontaneously and burn through things that had been pulled from the house.
Mashoba Mthembu, the owner of the house, said at least 13 family members are squatting together in one room because they have nowhere else to sleep and that the children are fearful of sleeping in the main house.
Started on bed
She said that the fires started almost two weeks ago on her bed.
“It first burned through my bed and it burnt it halfway.
In that bed there was about R3?000 that had been paid a few weeks earlier for my daughter’s <i>ilobola</i>, and it also burnt,” Mthembu added.
She said that after her bed was burnt, the fire raged through each of the bedrooms, consuming mattresses first and then the whole rooms.
So far it has burned about four bedrooms in the main house.
"At first we thought that it was children who were just playing with fire and accidentally caused it, but the matter came to a head on yesterday (Sunday) when the fire became uncontrollable.
"It burned through everything. If you put it out here, it will start somewhere else.”
She said the fire had also burnt her daughter's house, which is across the street.
Ward councillor Bonginkosi Shange said that even the fire-fighters who had been called to the scene, were puzzled.
“One female fire-fighter just about wet herself when the fire started right in front of her eyes and said she had never seen anything like this. Just this morning we have put out at least three different fires,” he said.
Joe Nzimande, a community leader said, “The problem is that no other community members want to accommodate the family because they think this fire will follow them there.”
Musa Ndlovu, of the Richmond municipality disaster management team, said the team has organised counselling for the family.
He added, “This family has been heavily traumatised.
"This kind of fire is not a normal fire. It is something that we have never seen before.” </p>