Fire breaks out at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg
A fire broke out at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital situated in Johannesburg on Friday morning, 16 April 2021. The Department of Health spokesperson, Kwara Kekana, said that the fire started after a storeroom for medical supplies caught alight at around 11h30. The cause of the fire is not yet known. The special dispensary store is used for storing dry surgical and medical items such as PPE amongst others. Smoke from the fire entering the hospital wards through the staircase necessitated patients being evacuated to other parts of the hospital on Friday and evacuated after the collapse of a section in the underground parking lot.
Fire fighters on scene included City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (CoJEMS), City of Ekurhuleni, City of Tshwane and Fire Ops South Africa (FOSA).
City of Johannesburg spokesperson, Synock Matobako, said, “Response included Engine 30 from Fairview Fire Station with a crew of six, a boom pumper from Eldorado Park Fire Station with five crew, urban search and rescue with three crew, a breathing apparatus truck from Sandton Fire Station with three crew and a water tanker from Cosmo City Fire Station with two crew. City of Ekurhuleni Disaster Management and Emergency Services (DEMS) assisted with a fire engine and three crew, City of Tshwane Emergency Services responded with and engine and three crew, Fire Ops SA assisted with approximately 10 crew members while Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) responded with a water tanker even though they only responded but did not participate on fire fighting. There were also various other emergency services and volunteers from different services on scene.”
Matobako added, “The first engine to arrive attacked the fire with an attack line from the western side of the medical store room. Fire fighting started around 11h30 and it was contained midnight but reignited early hours of the morning. The fire was stopped at 12h00 Saturday. There were no injuries. The damage was on the medical supply in the store room and the collapse of the upper parking area above the store room where the fire was burning. Challenges faced included water supply because of the missing couplings from the fire hydrants. Other challenge was the smoke spreading to the hospital wards.
Fire Ops SA
Wynand Engelbrecht, CEO of Fire Ops SA said, “The fire evidently started in an area where cardboard boxes and plastic covered items were stored/kept in an area immediately beneath the parking levels in the hospital. The fire rapidly spread through this heap of high-risk products as the access to water supply was compromised. Fire Ops SA joined the operation approximately an hour and fifteen into the time-line. Fire Ops (FOSA) does not require hydrants as it operated using water from a hose reel, using UHP equipment. FOSA deployed three tactical units, which remained on scene for seventeen hours.”
Chief Engelbrecht added, “CoJEMS teams directed defensive streams during most of the operations. FOSA directed one stream for part of the operation. From early afternoon to well into the early morning hours, the two teams sent fire fighters in for intermittent internal attacks, whenever the temperature fluctuations allowed such manoeuvres. These crews were made up of equal numbers provided by the two teams.”
“Challenges faced included the hospital not starting evacuation procedures in good time.”
The Gauteng Health Department, assisted by a number of agencies including City of Tshwane EMS, ER24, Netcare 911, St John’s Ambulance Service, Sabri Christi, Vitalmed, PSC, SAPAESA, Medi-response, Off-Road Rescue Unit (ORRU) and volunteers, evacuated patients to neighbouring hospitals on Friday evening at around 21h00.
The City of Tshwane Emergency Services Department activated and deployed resources to aid in the evacuation of patients at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, following a fire that broke out at the hospital on Friday, 16 April 2021. Charles Mabaso, deputy chief: public information and liaison officer at the City of Tshwane Emergency Services said, “A call for aid was expressed from the acting Head of Department of the Gauteng Department of Health through the Head of the Gauteng Provincial Disaster Management Centre. As such, a major incident unit bus was deployed along with a special infectious unit ambulance and an intensive care ambulance. The major incident unit bus, the first of its kind in the country and the two special ambulances managed to transport 48 patients from Charlotte Maxeke Hospital to Tshwane District Hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital within 30 hours. The major incident unit bus evacuated adult and paediatric patients, while the special ambulances evacuated a COVID-19 intensive care unit patient and a maternity patient who required emergency surgery.
The hospital remains closed after more than 800 patients were transferred to other facilities. The Gauteng Provincial Government has activated a hotline to deal with public enquiries, regarding chronic medication, various surgeries, gynae clinic etc as well as families checking up on loved ones who were admitted at the hospital.
Following the fire department declaring the fire fully extinguished, the Department of Infrastructure Development and Property Management and conducted a visual assessment of what needs to be done. A decision was made to prop the collapsed slab to allow SAPS to conduct their fire investigation that includes forensic investigations. Once concluded, structural engineers will conduct a thorough condition assessment and provide a report with recommendations on remedial work that is required. This will include structural repairs.
On visual assessment, however, the damaged portions will need structural repairing. At this stage they are unable to confirm how long the structural assessment will take and when this process will be conclude. This is due to the fact that the assessment also involves laboratory tests, the results of which will determine the extent of damage and repair work needed to be undertaken.
On Wednesday, 21 April 2021, the cleaning of the HVAC system and air ducts commenced inside the entire hospital. Once the cleaning is complete, an air quality test will confirm that the facility is safe for occupation and use. Teams envisage that this work will be complete sometime during the week next week.
The Department wishes to place on record the current status of the fire protection services in the hospital. On fire protection systems: Fire protection systems such as hydrants, extinguishers and hose reels, are inspected monthly. These were last inspected in March 2021. There is a total of 1 003 fire fighting equipment, in the hospital area and 50 in the administration block excluding the nurses’ residence and the admin blocks. These are made up of:
75 fire hydrants
295 hose reels
575 DCP fire extinguishers
58 CO2 distribution points
Sources: Gauteng Department of Health; Synock Matobako, spokesperson for the City of Johannesburg Emergency Services; Wynand Engelbrecht, CEO, Fire Ops SA; Charles Mabaso, deputy chief: public information and liaison officer, City of Tshwane Emergency Services