‘Majority of city buildings lack standard fire safety equipment’ The burnt building located between 4th and 5th Avenues along Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street (Inset top) Mr Delight Burura, the security guard and Auto Quip owner, Mr Samuel Nyamapfeka

 Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [email protected]

PROPERTY worth ZiG2, 5 million was reduced to ashes when a building in Bulawayo’s city centre caught fire yesterday morning, bringing to the fore the issue of compliance in terms of adherence to strict fire safety codes.

The city is witnessing a sharp increase in fire incidents with the Fire Brigade receiving an average of 10 fire calls a day.

According to Bulawayo City Council, 60 percent of fires in the city are caused by carelessly discarded lit materials while 30 percent are due to electrical faults. 

During yesterday’s fire incident, heroic Bulawayo City Council (BCC) firefighters managed to rescue a security guard from the burning building that houses the Auto Quip spares shop.

The building, located between 4th and 5th Avenues along Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street, caught fire while Mr Delight Burura, a security guard, was asleep inside the locked premises, only to wake up to find the entire place engulfed in smoke and flames.

Fortunately, the crew from the Bulawayo Fire Station arrived in time and rescued him.

“I couldn’t see anything and my vision was blurred because of the smoke, which was also choking me. I then started screaming which I think was heard by the fire tenders who managed to break open the door,” said Mr Burura. 

A devastated Auto Quip owner, Mr Samuel Nyamapfeka said he received a call informing him that the building was on fire and he immediately drove to the scene where he found the rescue team already on site.

“The building was recently renovated so I am yet to come to terms with this disaster and its implications, especially to my employees,” he said.

Bulawayo chief fire officer, Mr Nhlanganiso Moyo said they received a distress call from a resident at an adjacent flat at around 4.30am.

He said the fire started on the ground floor of the two-storey building before spreading to the first floor.

“We received a call at around 4.30am and immediately attended to the scene. Unfortunately, by the time our crew arrived, the fire had already spread to the first floor and we had to use canon volts from the two new fire engines,” said Mr Moyo.

He said they managed to extinguish the fire after an almost two-hour battle.

“We are still carrying out investigations so that we establish the exact cause of the fire. Preliminary findings point to an electric gadget that was left on. The estimated value of the property is ZiG4,5 million while the estimated value of the loss is ZiG2 million, and property valued at ZiG2,5 million was saved from the inferno,” said Mr Moyo.

He said his crew discovered a heap of burnt blankets on the stairway leading to the first floor which they suspect could have led to the spread of the fire to the first floor.

 “As a general safety precaution measure, we would want to urge shop owners to keep fuel sources away from heating materials. Practising good housekeeping is a fundamental part of fire prevention as it ensures that flammable substances are stored away. They must also install passive and active detection systems,” said Mr Moyo.

He expressed concern over the lack of standard fire safety equipment in most buildings in the city, particularly those that are being refurbished.

Recommended fire safety equipment includes fire extinguishers, fire alarms, emergency exit signs, fire sprinkler systems, fireproof doors, fire-resistant materials and fire escape ladders.

“Most of our old buildings have these basics like fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems and escape routes but the  challenge is on these new buildings,” said Mr Moyo.

Fire prevention expert Mr Reggie Sibanda said most building owners were neglecting fire safety measures.

 “Before any building is occupied there must be a fire risk assessment so that it is ascertained which fire equipment may be needed. We also need to train people based on the fire safety management strategy which focuses on three aspects, firefighting equipment, fire prevention and response,” he said. 

Mr Sibanda said enhanced vigilance and stricter enforcement of safety protocols can help prevent such tragedies in the future

“Having firefighting equipment may not be necessary if occupants are not trained and fire cannot be prevented without firefighting equipment,” he said.



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