Tricky blaze in crowded boarding house

2014-07-10 00:00

A ROOM in an office block converted into an illegal boarding house in the city centre went up in flames yesterday because of a suspected electrical fault.

Msunduzi Fire Service investigator Rodney Trenam said that fortunately there were no fatalities as no one was in the building at the time of the fire.

However, the fire fighters struggled to get in as rooms were locked. They had to break down the ceiling where the fire started in order to bring it under control.

Trenam said the illegal conversion of office blocks into residential dwellings was causing huge problems as the buildings were not wired for heavy electrical usage. He said stoves, hot plates and other household devices draw a great deal of electrical current.

He said that, in addition, there was “tenant farming” going on in many of the buildings with far more people living in rooms than was safe. This in itself was a fire hazard.

According to Trenam, the room that was destroyed in the Drury Lane building had been divided into two, with four tenants on the one side and two on the other. Three to four other rooms in the building were similarly divided. He said the fire fighting team arrived in the nick of time, preventing the fire from spreading to the rest of the building.

During the melee surrounding the fire, it was not clear who the owners were. The residents were not there and were only expected back after work.

Trenam urged landlords that if they wanted to change the use of any building, they had to apply for permission from the municipality and follow the bylaws.


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