Fire gets IY off to a bad start in 2020

Firefighters putting out the last of the flames at the Imizamo Yethu settlement.

A fire in Imizamo Yethu has left 24 families homeless.

It broke out in Goniwe Street on Monday, destroying 12 shacks. Six school-going children are among the 34 people displaced.

Some of the affected families were still in the Eastern Cape at the time, according to Nosiseko Siswana, co-founder of Tula Tula Hout Bay, the non-profit which in 2017 came to the aid of the community when it was devastated by a fire that left nearly 12 000 people homeless.

“It’s really a difficult thing for many of these people, especially the families who were preparing their kids for school next week.

“This fire destroyed their school clothes and stationery – things these people save for throughout the year, and just like that, it’s all gone.”

The organisation has been providing toiletries to the victims of Monday’s fire and is raising funds for blankets and groceries.

“Some of the people must still go to work and they need to be able to wash themselves and have access to toiletries,” Ms Siswana said.

“We have to stand together. It is very tough for somebody to lose everything just like that. Imagine the families coming home from the Eastern Cape. What must be going through their heads right now, because they are coming home to a pile of rubble?”

City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman, Jermaine Carelse, said firefighters extinguished the fire just after 4pm.

“The first arriving fire crews from Hout Bay encountered several structures well alight and called upon more resources,” he said, adding the cause of the fire still had to be determined.

“It all happened so fast,” said resident Walter Mtoboli, who was two roads away when he first got a whiff of smoke.

“I ran towards Goniwe Street, and the first thing I spotted were families trying to get out of their structures. People were trying to help by throwing water on the fire, but it spread so quickly,” he said.

“I am just glad nobody was hurt.

“We can rebuild these structures, but you can’t bring somebody back from the dead.”

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said the City’s disaster risk management had asked the South African Social Security Agency to aid the fire victims.

“Our informal settlements management has already delivered four enhanced starter kits for rebuilding and has held two on behalf of the two families who are currently in the Eastern Cape.”

The City has also started clearing debris from the scene of the fire.

Mr Quintas said the City had seen a 15% increase in fires for the festive period compared to last year, and they were largely attributed to “reckless behaviour under the influence of alcohol”.

He added: “I am deeply saddened by this tragic start to the new year for the affected families but am extremely grateful for the rapid response of City fire, disaster risk and informal settlements management who are working around the clock and across the City in order to mitigate the worst of the effects of these unfortunate fires.”

To help the fire victims, call Ms Siswana at 078 825 8752.