Long struggle to douse fire

2014-03-03 00:00

A RUBBER recycling factory on the Pentrich Road was gutted by fire in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The fire was brought under control, but firefighters worked the entire weekend and are expected to go on until at least tomorrow to completely extinguish the tons of smouldering rubber crumbs. The intensity of the internal conflagration was evident in the plume of black smoke that billowed into the sky the whole weekend, even until late yesterday.

Fortunately no one was injured in the blaze. The owners of ENV&E Rubbers, husband-and-wife team Rosalie and Gareth Akerman, were at the scene throughout the weekend.

Rosalie explained that the company had been in Pietermarizburg for five years. First in Mkondeni, then in Willowton and then in the present premises, which used to be House of York — a wood products manufacturing company.

She said there was usually a night shift on duty, but no one worked on Friday night because it was payday. This was fortunate as there were no fatalities, but perhaps if staff had been on the premises they would have spotted the fire earlier. It seems the fire swept through most of the factory before it was spotted.

She said ENV&E converted used tyres and conveyor belts into rubber crumb. These products are then used as inputs in other rubber products.

Working with rubber, they had to be very careful about fire and they had all the necessary fire-fighting equipment, she said. She added that they were now waiting for the investigator’s report on the cause of the fire. The company also had all the necessary insurance in place and while they would have to be closed for a while, she expected that they would be able to set up the plant again in five to six months’ time.

The Akermans thanked the Msunduzi firefighters for their prompt response to the fire and for their work over the entire weekend.

When The Witnessvisited the scene on Saturday morning fire investigator Rodney Trenam said when the fire engines first got there, the whole factory was covered in flames.

He said it was a blessing that the fire department had bought a turntable ladder that was 10 storeys high as they were able to douse the flames from above. However, the problem was that the roof caved in and it was difficult to get water to the material under the roof.

Msunduzi fire chief Billy Paton said the situation had improved by yesterday as the company had assisted by bringing in front-end loaders to move the roof and other debris so that they could get to the smouldering bags of rubber underneath.

Paton said it was hard work and a long and tedious job trying to douse smouldering layers of fire. He thanked his team of firefighters. “We really do have a brilliant and committed team and the work that they do is thankless. Fires such as the one we had this weekend demonstrates their dedication,” he said.

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