Residents support toiling firefighters

2017-08-14 13:45
Msunduzi firefighters battle the blaze at the New England Road landfill site on Friday.

Msunduzi firefighters battle the blaze at the New England Road landfill site on Friday. (Ian Carbutt)

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As Msunduzi firefighters tirelessly fought the New England Road landfill site fire, Maritzburgers rallied together providing food, water and cold-drinks to those battling the blaze.

Others took to social media to praise the firefighters for putting out the blaze that had covered the city in a blanket of smog.

The fire started at the landfill site on Thursday afternoon, covering the city in smog on Thursday evening and most of Friday. With the smog blanketing the city, the noxious fumes from the dump’s fire saw several local schools close for the day and residents complaining that they were having trouble breathing.

Msunduzi firefighters worked around the clock from the time the fire was first reported on Thursday afternoon and straight through the weekend to put a stop to the fire and toxic fumes choking the city.

While residents took to Facebook and other social media platforms to complain about the smoke and its effect on the environment and residents, many locals thanked the fire department for their hard work in battling the blaze.

Msunduzi deputy chief fire officer Juggie Padayachee said yesterday that the support for the firefighters from the community was “greatly appreciated” and overwhelming.

He said residents had been stopping at the landfill site all weekend to support and encourage the firefighters as well as to bring them food and cooldrinks.

“We have had a lot of people bringing food and water and cooldrinks to the firefighters working at the site and we thank them for their support. It is highly appreciated.”

Padayachee said although the fire at the site was not a “major incident”, people from across the city still rallied together behind the firefighters.

Facebook user Cherise du Plessis took to The Witness Facebook page to show her support for the fire department.

“Thank you to all the hard working firemen and firewomen trying to contain the fire,” she said.

“A big thank you to those brave firefighters for a job well done,” said another Facebook user, Farouk Ally.

“Our prayers are with all the firefighters and other workers as they work hard to get this under control. Thank you to all of the people helping to get this fire under control and fully doused,” posted Liesel Landsberg Croghan-Black.

Another user, Judy Chetty, also thanked the firefighters for working “gruelling hours” under “trying conditions” to put out the fire.

Padayachee said on Sunday afternoon the fire had been 98% extinguished and that it would be completely out by Monday.

“We have 28 staff working to extinguish the fire, four water tankers, two graders and two bulldozers,” he said.

While the cause of the fire is still unknown, it has been alleged that a truck driver carrying smoldering fur trimmings had dumped the load at the site, starting the fire. This could not be confirmed.

A source who spoke with The Witness on Friday had said that the firefighters were struggling to fight the fire due to a low water supply.

The source also said the firefighters would douse the flames only for them to flare up again as they waited for more water to be brought to the site. Despite the challenges, Pietermaritzburg air quality specialist Andrew Simpson said on Friday that if the fire department had not acted as quickly as they had, the fire would have been worse with more toxic fumes spewing into the air.

“It helps a lot if the fire is controlled quickly and the firefighters must have acted fast for it to be clearer [on Friday afternoon] already.

“It is not as bad as it could have been had they not acted as quickly,” he said.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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