Fires affect residents

2020-01-14 06:00
The charred remains of household items in Vrygrond serve as a reminder of the fire that affected 11 structures over the festive season.

The charred remains of household items in Vrygrond serve as a reminder of the fire that affected 11 structures over the festive season. (Racine Edwardes)

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The City of Cape Town’s Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, reported an alarming 15% increase in the number of formal and informal residential fires in December last year, compared to the same period in 2018.

In Masiphumelele and Vrygrond alone, seven people lost their lives in three separate fire incidents.

Fire and rescue service spokesperson Jermaine Carelse elaborates on the statistics: “On Monday 23 December 2019, three persons died in a fire in Masiphumelele.

The second incident in Masiphumelele was on Wednesday 25 December 2019. Two adult men died in that fire. On 25 December 2019, two adult men died in a fire in Vrygrond.”

Loyiso Stuurman, a Vrygrond resident, lost his brother, Zamxolo Stuurman (35), in the blaze on Berg Street.

“He was a domestic worker, landscaper and gardener,” Loyiso says. 

Standing in his new home built with zinc sheets provided by the City – he explains: “We were in Overcome Heights on that day and at about 23:00, he said he was coming to bed because he was a bit drowsy and drunk. About an hour after he left, the fire was all over. When I came here, I opened the door with my keys but I couldn’t come in because the inside was on fire.”

Where there once stood a fridge, a stove, a bed and all Loyiso’s belongings; there is now only a few donated blankets from his colleagues at Stodels Bergvliet and Zamxolo’s photos. He says the only up-side he can see is that he had taken his documents and certificates to his girlfriend’s place in Overcome Heights before the fire broke out.

Gloria Mangani is another Vrygrond resident who was affected by the fire. 

“I was inside at about midnight. When I woke up, the fire was already here on the corner by my place. I had to climb on the top of the roof and get out.”

Mangani and two others share the structure. After losing all their belongings in the fire, they have been forced to live in even harsher conditions. 

“We are three, so we have to sleep on the small mattress – a single mattress – and we use some clothes to make it big.”

Samuel Freeman, spokesperson for disaster risk management, says 27 structures were destroyed in the three separate fires. 

Eight informal structures were destroyed and 20 people were affected in the fire in Masiphumelele on Monday. 

A further eight structures were destroyed in the same area on the Wednesday, affecting 28 people.

In Vrygrond, he reports: “Eleven informal structures were destroyed and 25 people were affected.”

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