Brave residents fight blaze

2014-07-31 00:00

SEVEN hours is how long it took for Mount Michael residents near Sweetwaters to put out veld fires that threatened their homes on Tuesday night.

Bruce Perrow had to take a day off from work yesterday, because he hardly slept putting out fires from 6 pm on Tuesday evening until 1 am yesterday.

“I was on my feet fighting fires with a hosepipe for seven hours and there were no firefighters to assist us,” he said.

Perrow said he was worried that the fire might burn his neighbours’ houses.

“It was burning relentlessly.”

Werner Ehlers (77), who is suffering from bronchial pneumonia, also had to get stuck in and battle the blaze in spite of his illness but said he’d only joined the fray later, yesterday morning. By 11.30 am the fire was out but still smouldering in patches.

His wife, Petra, told The Witnes s she was very worried about her husband being out in the smoke and flames.

Ehlers said that two of his neighbours, Peter Botha and Steve Matten, told him they’d fought the fire almost all night, with a fire truck only arriving in the early hours when the blaze was almost under control.

Then the firefighters did not stay to damp it down and it started up again, and crept along to threaten more properties, including his own.

Residents were afraid the huge gum trees that had caught alight along the borders of their land would come crashing down.

Perrow confirmed this.

He said the flames were so high you could see them from miles away.

“It was horrific,” he said.

The canopy of Perrow’s bakkie was destroyed by fire.

Another resident, Guy Princen, said this was the second time he’d experienced such veld fires in five years.

Fortunately for him, his green lawn ensured that the fire did not enter his yard.

“I think my neighbours called for firefighters because they have thatched roofs and the fire could have destroyed their properties,” he said.

Botha told The Witness he and his neighbours were exhausted.

“I’ve got to keep my eyes open with match sticks,” he said.

Botha did not want to blame the fire department, but said they’d only arrived at about 1.30 am “after the fact”.

Residents said there is confusion about whether their area falls under the jurisdiction of uMngeni (Howick) or Msunduzi fire departments.

A spokesperson for the Msunduzi fire department, Robert Ndlovu, insisted the department had sent three fire engines to the scene of the blaze yesterday morning, even though the local residents said they had not seen them.

Instead of the “house fire” that was reported to them, they’d discovered only a grass fire.

Ehlers said later it was possible the fire engines had responded to another smaller fire that had also been burning in the area. He said he did not know if anyone else reported that a house was on fire, but they did not do so.

MORE than 50 structures burnt in an informal settlement in the Sakha area of Mkondeni yesterday.

Residents said it was the second time in a week that fire razed their homes.

The fire was allegedly caused by someone leaving a stove unattended.

Ward committee member Thandazile Mashiyane said it was difficult to fight fires in the settlement because there is only one tap for more than 5 000 residents.

Msunduzi fire department divisional officer Nkosinathi Mchunu said no injuries were reported.

“We are still going investigate the cause of fire,” he said.

Msunduzi disaster management was on scene to help those who were left with no homes.

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