Vryheid business fire rages on as water supply runs out

Flames that engulfed the building are threatening to spread to the adjacent businesses as a pump failure at the Klipfontein Dam makes firefighting efforts virtually impossible.

A disruption to Vryheid’s water supply due to the failure of a pump a Klipfontein Dam has made it impossible for the AbaQulusi Fire Department to contain the fire that began at a storage warehouse alongside Magic Build on Utrecht Street on Sunday morning, reports Vryheid Herald.

Flames that engulfed the building are threatening to spread to the adjacent businesses, including Magic Build, where efforts have been made to prevent the fire from spreading by removing the timber that was stacked next to the wall that Magic Build shares with the warehouse.

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Describing the scene, Buurtwag chairman, André Rheder, said, “It is ridiculous. I can’t believe it.”

“We are on the scene at the moment, and what we observed is that our Fire Department is completely incapable of doing its work. There is no water in the town so members of the Neighbourhood Watch are rushing around to get water to assist the fire fighters.

“I managed to get 1,000 litres on my vehicle, but the fire fighters didn’t have a pump to get the water out of my vehicle and into the truck. Another challenge is that it looks like there may have been charcoal in the building that is feeding the fire.

“Members of the public are interfering with the scene, trying to get the coal out for themselves. At this stage, I think we are going to need a big storm to douse the fire in order to put it out,” explained Rheder.

Initial reports received from Frikkie Bekker of KwaZulu Private Ambulance, who was en route to the scene, indicated that there may be people trapped in the building. However, later reports from emergency personnel confirmed that nobody had been hurt.

Cornel McDermott and Eugene van Aswegen of AfriForum said members of the community activist group were also desperately rushing around seeking alternative water sources to assist the Fire Department.

Mayor Jerry Sibiya said fire fighters had used up all the water stored in the fire truck, and had to refill the truck from Klipfontein Dam itself (7.4km away), due to the disruption in water supply.

“So far, I have not heard of anybody being hurt. Even though the official cause of the fire has not yet been determined, I have heard from people on the scene that it is possible that the people sleeping inside the warehouse may have left something on overnight,” said Cllr Sibiya.

“Landlords who are renting out business property, need to ensure that there is a clause in the lease that makes it clear that nobody is to sleep on the premises. It should be used for business purposes only. This is the second business the town has lost to fire recently, and it affects the economy and business investment in the town,” he added.

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