Pretoria informal settlement fire claims three lives, leaves 25 injured and scores displaced
A fire at Plastic View informal settlement in Garsfontein, east of Pretoria claimed three lives, left 25 injured and scores displayed. “The Tshwane Emergency Services Department received the call at 23h45 on Saturday, 17 July 2021, where it was reported that a fire had broken out at the informal settlement. Station 11 (Erasmuskloof) was the first to be activated, followed by Silverton Station as backup station to combat the fire. Emergency services crews arrived on scene to find multiple shacks on fire and immediately started fire fighting and containing fire spread,” said Charles Mabaso, deputy chief: public information and liaison officer at City of Tshwane Emergency Services.
Mabaso added, “Response included Station 11 (Erasmuskloof) with a bush pumper and a company commander with two leading fire fighters, Station 4 (Silverton) responded with an engine pumper and four leading fire fighters, a command unit with an acting district commander and a bush pumper with a company commander; Station 3 (Centurion) with an engine pumper, a company commander and four leading fire fighters, Station 12 (Heuweloord) with a tanker and two leading fire fighters, Station 9 (Hatfield) with a rapid intervention vehicle (RIV) and two leading fire fighters and Station 1 (Central) with a video unit and a leading fire fighter, a bush pumper, an acting district commander, an engine pumper and four leading fire fighters.”
“Upon arrival, there were huge flames and smoke from burning shacks that was influenced by wind blowing from the northern side towards the south-eastern side of the informal settlement. The fire fighters’ initial attack objective was to prevent the spread of the fire from north to south, to evacuate people to a safe side and to treat patients.”
“It took fire fighters more than four hours to bring the fire under control because the wind was blowing mildly. The narrow spaces between the dwellings and people panicking, with some running around trying to save personal belongings, also hampered rapid fire fighting initiatives.
Challenges included surface conditions of the area, access difficulties due to a lack of or narrow passages or roads restricting the movement of vehicles and personnel and crowd control posed a challenge to fire fighting teams. A water supply shortage near the affected area meant that the teams had to depend on water shuttled by water tankers. The shortage of lights in the area coupled with intense smoke caused poor visibility, which made fire fighting a challenge. The fireload from combustible materials, such as plastic, rubber and cardboard, increased and fuelled the intensity of the fire. Two-way radio communication was also affected due to poor signal strength.”
“A total of 25 people were treated and transported to medical facilities by various ambulance services for burns, minor injuries and smoke inhalation. Three Priority 4 patients (deceased) were certified on the scene by City of Tshwane emergency medical personnel.”
Fire fighters remained on the scene to extinguish hot spots.
“An assessment of the settlement by our teams determined that about 100 shacks were destroyed by the fire, displacing 535 people who are families that were occupying the burnt shacks. Disaster Risk Management officers are working with the local NG Church and other social relief stakeholders to coordinate relief in a form of alternative temporary accommodation, mattresses, hygiene packs and meals,” said Mabaso.
The course of the fire remains a subject of investigation.
Source: Charles Mabaso, deputy chief: public information and liaison officer, City of Tshwane Emergency Services