Honey firm up in flames

2014-06-10 00:00

A POPULAR honey business near Howick is counting the heavy costs after its packaging and bottling factory was gutted by fire in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The Peel’s Honey packaging factory, within walking distance of their shop near the N3, was destroyed by fire yesterday morning resulting in extensive damage to the structure — running into millions of rands — and hundreds of thousands of rands worth of stock losses.

The situation could have been much worse were it not for the quick reaction of the owner of the business, Roland Kennard, who was one of the first people on scene.

His home is situated on the same property as the factory and the shop.

When Kennard saw that his factory was on fire, he quickly removed about 13 gas cylinders that were close to the building before they could catch fire and explode; were it not for that, the disaster could have been much worse.

Kennard told The Witness he did not know how the fire started and said he suspected there might have been an electrical fault.

He said he noticed the fire at around 5.30 am when the smoke alarms went off. He rushed outside to see what was happening and ran into the thick smoke that was billowing from the factory. By then, his mother and another neighbour had noticed the fire and had called for help.

He said he felt helpless at one point as he tried to save his business as he could see the source of the fire but could not get close enough to put it out because of the thick smoke.

“I could see where the fire was but I couldn’t go inside because I did not have a gas mask,” said Kennard.

He said his security company had called the fire department, which took about 45 minutes to arrive, and during that time he watched helplessly as his life’s work and business went up in flames.

The fire was so intense that it blew through a corrugated iron roof and caused extensive damage inside the structure, including to stock.

Hundreds of bottles of honey that on Sunday stood ready to be transported to be sold lay on the floor ruined, attracting swarms of bees.

“With the stock, it must be around R200 000 worth of damage. That does not include the structure.”

He said they were waiting for the insurance assessor to have a look at the damage and did not know how much it would cost or how long it would take to repair the damage to their factory, but said the cost could run to a couple of millions of rands.

Kennard said they were fortunate that the fire damaged only one structure and although business was affected yesterday, it will not grind to a halt. “We have other building and the business will therefore continue.

“But we cannot use the factory until the assessors have come and everything has been cleaned out … we will have to do the bottling side [of the honey production process] somewhere else.”

Rodney Trenam of the Msunduzi fire department, who assisted with the investigation into the fire, said they suspect that it was a heater that is used to keep the honey warm that had failed and started the fire.

Mark Raymond, fire prevention officer at uMgungundlovu, said four fire fighters based in Howick attended to the call.

“When they got there the fire was already going through the roof … They managed to control the fire and save the office space.”

Asked about the lengthy response time, he said they would have to check with the control room. “Everything is recorded from the time the call was placed until the fire was put out … It could not have taken them 45 minutes to get to the scene.”

• Thamsanqam@witness.co.za


• Peel’s Honey was established in 1924 and boasts the oldest honey label in South Africa.

• Their Creamed Honey and Peanut Brittle are their best known lines.

• They sell their products at various outlets countrywide.

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