Joburg fire: 'Paper and boxes were stuffed in ducts'

Fire, which resulted in the death of three firefighters, continue to ravage the government building in the Johannesburg city centre.
Fire, which resulted in the death of three firefighters, continue to ravage the government building in the Johannesburg city centre.
Image: Masi Losi

Johanesburg Emergency Management Services acting fire chief Arthur Mqwa says the government owns the building where a deadly fire claimed the lives of three firefighters on Wednesday.

The building, at Pixley ka Isaka Seme Street in the Johannesburg CBD, does not comply with emergency services regulations.

Mqwa said the deadly fire managed to spread to lower levels because the floors were not sealed and there were papers and boxes in the ducts.

"Our heroes passed away trying to save people in the building. They rescued 13 people. When we arrived at the building the fire doors to the emergency routes were open and they were not supposed to be open.

"The fire spread through the ducts and went down … because there were papers and boxes in those ducts. What I am trying to say is that the building was not sealed. It did not comply with the EMS (Emergency Management Services) by-laws," he said.

Mqwa said they were receiving assistance from the City of Ekurhuleni and the OR Tambo district municipality to fight the flames that continue to engulf the building.

Member of mayoral committee for public safety Michael Sun said firefighters were going through a tough time. He said the City was forced to cancel a contract with the only fire engines suppliers they relied on because it was corrupt.

"It is no secret that the City of Johanessburg has been suffering for years. We will prioritise procurement of fire engines," he said.

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.

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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