Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
A HAULAGE truck was burnt to a shell when a fire broke out at a vehicle storage yard, suspected to be an illegal fuel warehouse, in Bulawayo.
Fire fighters battled the inferno in Kelvin industrial site along Khami Road on Friday for close to an hour and saved scores of vehicles that were in the path of the raging flames.
Sizinda residents who live a stone’s throw from the site said there was an explosion followed by flames that shot up towards the sky.
“It was scary. I panicked because the fire looked dangerous,” said a resident who declined to be named.
“There is a fuel depot next to the car park and we feared the petrol tankers were on fire. We expected further explosions and thought the fire would spread to our homes.”
Panicking residents called the Fire Brigade directing them to the fuel depot, which is about 100 metres from the vehicle storage.
“I’m still in shock. I stay at the flats and the tanks are on higher ground, so when I saw a fire I just thought it was the one of the big oil tanks burning. It was a relief to know that the fire did not get to those tanks because I think we would have been dead by now,” said Mr Andrea Banda.
Bulawayo acting chief fire officer Mr Edward Mpofu said fire fighters were called to the scene on Friday evening.
“Some people were decanting fuel and there was a truck which was being used as a tanker for transporting and storing fuel. A spark could have started the fire. It is fortunate that there were no casualties,” said Mr Mpofu.
Mr Jackson Dube, the owner of the premises, said he suspects the fire was caused by an electrical fault.
He denied that there was fuel on the premises when he spoke to The Chronicle news crew.
However, there were fuel tanks around the yard, which he said were all empty.
“I was away on Friday night and that is when the fire incident happened. We have been having problems with electricity. It has been short circuiting and we reported it. I think a spark must have ignited the grass and set the ground ablaze. There is so much uncut dry grass here,” said Mr Dube.
He said the fire spread from the building to the cars and a haulage truck was reduced to a shell.
Meanwhile, Mr Mpofu advised the members of the public to take heed of safety and legal procedures for storing flammable liquids.
“Petrol and diesel are highly flammable. They should be handled properly all the time. If in excess of 900 litres, it is advised that the fuel be kept underground to avoid such infernos that damage property and cause loss of life. If its less than 900 litres, all fuels should be stored in a fire rated flammable liquid storeroom,” said Mr Mpofu.