Joburg fire spreading through ducts stuffed with paper and boxes

06 September 2018 - 12:31 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Flames are spreading through the building that houses three provincial departments in the Johannesburg CBD on September 6, 2018.
Flames are spreading through the building that houses three provincial departments in the Johannesburg CBD on September 6, 2018.
Image: Masi Losi

Johannesburg fire chief Arthur Mqwa says the blaze that engulfed the upper levels of a building in the Johannesburg CBD on Wednesday has since spread to lower levels through ducts filled with paper and boxes.

"The fire spread through the ducts to the 16th floor because there were papers and boxes in those ducts‚” he said during a briefing at Milpark Hospital‚ where four firefighters were undergoing treatment for burn wounds and smoke inhalation.

"What I am trying to say is that the building was not sealed. It did not comply with the [emergency services] bylaws‚" said Mqwa.

Three firefighters died fighting the blaze on Wednesday. Widow Yuri Tseke shared her heartbreak publicly.

“#JoburgFire today I lost my husband‚ my best friend‚ father to my children. I love u so much‚” she said. 

Tseke‚ who has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to educate her children – a toddler and a baby‚ thanked those who had sent her comforting messages. Pledges increased from R1‚400 on Thursday morning to R8‚837 by midday.

Overnight‚ firefighters were dispatched from other metros to help the City of Johannesburg's exhausted teams. 

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba‚ who visited the building on Thursday to inspect the flare-up‚ was also at the hospital. Eight firefighters were admitted‚ but four have been discharged. 

"Of concern to me is the state of our city. In my 100 days in office‚ I raised the question of the safety of the City of Johannesburg‚” said Mashaba. “I said we'd have to take back this city. We need to act and act with pace. I can take you to 100 buildings [around Johannesburg] where tragedy can happen anytime."

Most of the fires that happened in Johannesburg were due to recklessness‚ Mashaba added.

"This incident will expedite my resolve to take back the city.”

He said buildings that did not comply needed to be demolished to avoid such incidents.

MMC for Public Safety Michael Sun said the city was struggling with a shortage of fire engines. "We are going to make the procurement of fire engines a priority. We have a massive backlog."

The blaze that engulfed the upper levels of the Gauteng Health Department building in the Johannesburg CBD on September 5 2018, continued to spread to the lower levels of the building on September 6 2018.


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