BRIEF | CAPE TOWN 

Angry residents stone fire engines for “being late”

Phumani Village residents say firefighters arrived after the community already had control of the blaze

Photo of three men in burned ruins
From left to right: Usef Usen, Patrick James and Doubt Ibrahim, who lost their homes and all their belongings in a fire in Grassy Park. Photo: Thembela Ntongana
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According to City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services Assistant Spokesperson Tracey Whittaker, three firefighting vehicles responding to a fire in Phumlani Village, Grassy Park, withdrew from the scene after they were stoned on Monday evening.

Byron Abraham, a resident who helped douse the fire, says people did throw stones, but, “People are tired, because these people [firefighters] come late when the community has already done the work – that is why people threw stones.”

“I was here putting out the fire. Where were they [the firefighters]? And they are not far from here. They know that the community has a problem with water and that it comes out in small amounts, but they still take their time,” said Abraham.

His neighbour, Henry Soekers, says that without the help of the community his house would have burnt down as well. “My daughter called them when the fire started … When the fire brigades came, the fire was already almost out and the people had lost all their things. Imagine if we had waited for them!” said Soekers.

Five families lost their backyard shacks. Phumlani Village consists of old RDP houses and shanties.

Patrick James from Malawi says the fire started in the shack next to his. “We do not know what started the fire because the owner of the shack is in Eastern Cape,” he said.

James stays with his wife and one-year-old baby. “We have to start from scratch. Everything we have is now gone; even our papers,” said James.

His neighbours, Doubt Ibrahim and Usef Usen, also from Malawi, were on their way back from work when their homes burnt down.

The five families, who were backyarders, have moved into their landlord’s house. They have started to clear the rubble and ashes and will rebuild.

The City’s Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Theo Layne said the first call was recieved at 7:10pm and the first vehicle arrived at the incident at 7:24pm, “well within our response times for this area”.

“The public generally has the perception that somebody has phoned already and this results in delays in us being notified. We would rather receive ten calls to the same incident than none at all,” said Layne

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