Faulty municipal electricity infrastructure caused a fire in Hangberg earlier this month that left a single mother of five homeless, and more fires could follow if it isn’t fixed, says a community activist.
Roscoe Jacobs blames the City for the fire that gutted the woman’s shack and damaged two houses on either side of it, in the early hours of Wednesday September 1, saying residents previously saw flames and sparks on a nearby municipal electricity pole and reported the problem, but it wasn’t fixed.
However, City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse said the cause of the fire in Salamander Road was “unknown”.
The call for it had come in at 12.40am, and Hout Bay and Constantia fire brigades had responded.
“An informal structure was completely destroyed and two adjacent properties were affected. A building wall expanded resulting in cracks on the structure. The windows on the south side wall of the building were damaged,” he said.
In all, seven people had been displaced but no injuries had been reported, he said.
But Mr Jacobs claims firefighters who were at the scene told him an electrical fault was likely to blame for the fire, which he says started shortly after the power came back on following an electricity outage.
Residents say they live in fear of fire and injury because it is common to see sparks on electricity infrastructure in the area
“We are all aware of the concerns around the electricity in this area, but what is it going to take for the council to fix this problem? More families are going to be out on the street,” said a woman who would only identify herself as Celeste.
City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo, said most of the dwellings in Hangberg were formally electrified with the exception of shacks built “unlawfully” on Table Mountain National Park land where SANParks had not granted the City permission to provide services.
“This section is severely affected by the ongoing illegal connections and vandalism of City electrical infrastructure which affects electricity supply and can lead to fires,” Mr Tyhalibongo said.
Municipal electricity staff and Law Enforcement regularly held operations to remove illegal connections, he said.
“As soon as it is removed, it is illegally connected again in many instances. However, illegal connections remain a challenge as residents and mostly criminal syndicates continue to reconnect these illegal connections, placing tremendous strain on the electricity supply.”
The illegal connections posed “severe risks to the health and safety of our residents”, he said.
He urged residents to get reference numbers when lodging service requests with the municipality.
The Peace and Mediation Forum secretary Warren Abraham called on the City to do a “reassessment of all electricity services” in Hangberg.
“A lot of these installations need urgent attention and maintenance as well. Open supply kiosks and supply boxes on poles is also a serious safety risk during windy and rainy days.”
People should also not tamper with electricity infrastructure, he said.
“I would like to urge the community to be patient and allow the process of installations by the City to continue legally. Illegal connections destroy people’s structures and their lives.”
Anybody wanting to help the victims of the fire can WhatsApp Mr Jacobs at 072 332 7410 for more information.