Fire station besieged by arsonists and vandals is forced to close

14 June 2019 - 14:25 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
Gugulethu fire station after it was set ablaze in 2018. File photo.
Gugulethu fire station after it was set ablaze in 2018. File photo.
Image: City of Cape Town

In an ironic turn of events, the city of Cape Town has closed a fire station that has become a target for arsonists and vandals.

JP Smith, the city's mayoral committee member for safety and security, made the announcement on Friday.

Demonstrators, protesting about land, set the Gugulethu fire station alight in July last year. Fire fighters from Mitchells Plain had to come to the rescue.  

Smith said vandals attacked community facilities at the Fezeka municipal office, next to the fire station, on Thursday night and set a car and a carport alight.  He said firefighters came under attack when they extinguished the blaze.

"Firefighters extinguished the fire, but soon became targets themselves, when the group started hurling stones at their building, causing damage to the bay doors,"  said Smith.

"The city’s chief fire officer has suspended operations at the Gugulethu fire station as a result. These facilities serve the community and an attack on it is a direct attack on the community. The thugs behind the destruction will argue that their actions were done in protest, but it is immaterial, because there can be no justification for the ongoing damage and vandalism of city infrastructure," said Smith.

He added that such scenes had become "too common and it is completely unacceptable".  He said the fire station had to be closed for nearly six months for repairs after last year's  attack.

"Following this latest incident, the staff have again been redeployed to other fire stations amid safety concerns and until the situation calms down," he said.

"What this means is that any request for a firefighting response in Gugulethu and surrounds will take far longer, as there are no resources operating from the local fire station until further notice. The city calls on the community to help identify the thugs who are robbing them of this essential service."

Smith said a number of arrests had been made in relation to the protest and that he had requested the city’s safety and security investigative unit to convey the city’s message to the police that it would oppose bail.

"The fire and rescue service continually delivers good service to the communities, yet there are those who choose to attack our fire stations or staff, for reasons which have nothing to do with them. Unless this sickening trend comes to a halt, it will become increasingly difficult for our staff to do their jobs. They are here to protect lives and not to be subjected to such unfair and criminal acts," said Smith.