Firefighters had to resort to blasting scrap metal scavengers with their water hoses in an attempt to prevent injuries while tending to a blaze in the Johannesburg CBD today.
“The fire started at approximately 9am on the corner of Albertina Sisulu Road and Troye Street. Three fire trucks were dispatched to the scene,” according to Johannesburg Emergency Management Services spokesperson Nana Radebe.
I arrived at the scene after the fire had predominantly been extinguished, but the scene was still hot.
A massive crowd of onlookers surrounded the firefighters watching the inferno and the team at work. The building and streets had been cordoned off by tape for people’s safety, but this did nothing to keep the crowds from edging closer.
I focused my attention on the firefighters, but every now and then I’d see people darting past the cordon into the still smouldering building.
I followed one and quickly realised these people were scrap metal scavengers ripping out whatever metal they could salvage from the building. Corrugated iron sheets, burglar proofing, security gates and cabling were all being torn from the structure, which as it was, was already a crumbling wreck.
In an attempt to prevent injuries the EMS turned their hoses on the scavengers, who were forced to flee the scene totally drenched, some empty-handed, but some celebrating with their loot in hand.
As this behaviour continued the crowd cheered on the hopefuls.
A small number of JMPD officers attempted to keep the scavengers at bay, but their attempts were mostly unsuccessful.
What saddened me was that these people were literally risking their safety in an attempt to possibly make a few meagre rands. The extent of their actions just goes to show how desperate people are to put food on the table.
Fortunately, there were no injuries reported.