Mashaba calls for reinforcements to deal with Joburg Fire

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JOHANNESBURG, September 6 – Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba on Thursday said that the City has requested reinforcement firefighters from the City of Ekurhuleni, the City of Tshwane and the OR Tambo International Airport to help deal with the fire that broke out in a government building in Joburg CBD.

The fire at the 23-storey government building in the CBD, which houses the department of health, human settlements and cooperative governance, was still raging on Thursday and had spread to other parts after it caught alight on Wednesday morning. Three firefighters died in the blaze, including one who fell from one of the top floors, apparently after an explosion.

“I’ve just been given a briefing that they [Joburg EMS]  have managed to call for additional help from Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and OR Tambo team to assist us in the job they are doing to fully extinguish the fire,” Mashaba said.

“I’ve also spoken to our engineers from GDA that once the fire has been completely put out, to really look at the safety of that building whether it is safe for us to knock it down or to leave it as it is. We cannot take chances because when we have a massive fire like this, it affects the actual structure of the building.”

Mashaba was speaking after visiting injured firefighters at Milpark Hospital early on Thursday. He said that eight of the injured firemen, four had been discharged while four others were still being treated but would be discharged on Friday.

Mashaba also said that the City will be looking at investing more money to capacitate the emergency medical services.

Arthur Mqwa, acting head of the City of Joburg emergency medical service, said the Bank of Lisbon building did not only fail to comply with safety and health regulations, but it also did not meet the standards for emergency rescue.

Mqwa also said the fire was able to spread quickly to other floors because each floor in the building did not have protective firewalls and that the shafts where water pipes and electrical cables run were stuffed with papers and cardboards, which easily enabled the fire to spread.

“That building has two emergency routes that we are supposed to use as firefighters because they have fire hydrants. But when we arrived in that building, those doors were open and the smoke had already gone through those emergency routes,” Mqwa said.

“Through the duct where the water pipes and cables which run along the building, that fire also went there and down to the 16th floor. It went through there because there were papers and boxes in those ducts. Remember there are electrical wires running through there, so they were spreading the fire. That building was not sealed as per SANS 10400 National Building Regulations.”

Mqwa said his firefighters had to battle three major fires around Joburg on Wednesday as they responded to a burning printing factory in Kya Sands early in the morning, the fire at Bank of Lisbon building, as well as another fire in South Hills near Lenasia in the evening.

Two firefighters died while trying to battle the blaze while one fell to his death. At least 13 officials from the provincial department of health were hospitalised and were treated for smoke inhalation, but have since been discharged. At this point, the cause of the fire is still unknown.

– African News Agency (ANA)