Pietermaritzburg - Local farmers saved a popular Dalton shopping complex from burning to the ground as a fire ravaged through a grocery store on Wednesday.
When the distress calls went out, local agricultural companies and farmers immediately heeded to the call with their fire fighting equipment, ready and waiting for winter fires. Bystanders said their intervention saved the Basil’s shopping centre from further fire damage while they waited on the fire brigade.
However, the Siyazama Supermarket where the fire is believed to have started, was left totally gutted with employees scrambling to save whatever undamaged goods they could find once the fire was extinguished.
It is believed the fire resulted from an electrical fault, however this could not be confirmed.
Dalton pharmacist Rajin Naidoo, who runs a pharmacy at the centre, said the fire started just before 10 am yesterday.
“Without the help of the local farmers and their fire fighting skills, the entire complex would have been burnt down,” Naidoo said.
“The flames were about two storeys high and the black smoke was very scary. We could smell it from inside the store.”
A customer, who was inside the supermarket when the fire started, described the harrowing ordeal. Sbu Ngubane said he was picking out potatoes when he smelt the smoke and heard people start to scream.
“I could smell smoke, but I thought it was outside and ignored it. Then I heard people starting to shout and one lady was screaming.
“Everybody started to leave quickly and I dropped everything and ran out,” Ngubane said.
“Then we saw the flames.”
According to a shop assistant at the People’s bottle store, which is next to the supermarket, they had tried to contact the fire brigade and the police. “Nobody was around,” the woman said. “By the time everyone had arrived, the entire store was burnt down.”
The Witness made numerous attempts to contact the owners of the supermarket and the uMshwathi municipality for comment but no one authorised to speak to the media could be reached.