China Town goes up in flames

Fire and rescue services used 10 fire engines in efforts to put out the blaze.

There was big trouble in little China when fire ravaged the China Town shopping complex at Sable Square, Milnerton, sending black plumes of smoke billowing into the air, after close of business, on Friday July 1.

More than 70 firefighters from companies across the city deployed from 10 fire engines to fight the blaze. They were backed up by six water tankers, two hydraulic platforms and rescue and support vehicles.

Theo Layne, the City’s fire and rescue services spokesman, said firefighters responded to the blaze at 4.43pm.

“Due to the building being closed at the time, a large amount of heat had built up, making it difficult for firefighters to spend extended periods inside the building wearing breathing apparatus,” said Mr Layne.

“The fire was contained at 11.30pm, and crews remained on scene dealing with hot spots and overhauling until after 8am the following morning,” he added.

“Due to the intensity of the heat, the fire spread through the firewall to adjacent shops,” said Mr Layne.

He said further investigation was needed to pinpoint the cause of the fire. Quintin Rossi, director of Fundamental Holdings, Sable Square’s owners, said the fire had been limited to a small portion of China Town, and it was still business as usual at Sable Square.

“The Chinese retailers closest to the block where the fire erupted are closed at the moment until the affected area is deemed safe for tenants and the public,” said Mr Rossi.

The scene of the fire had been cordoned off for public safety and to secure it for investigators.

Mr Rossi said the cost of the fire was unknown at this stage. A forensic investigation was under way, and he did not want to speculate how the fire had started.

In Facebook statement, Mr Rossi said centre management and security staff had responded speedily after noticing smoke coming from the China Town shops.

“All emergency protocols and procedures kicked into gear, and the scene, along with large parts of the centre, were evacuated. All attempts to fully extinguish the fire were unsuccessful.

“It soon became evident that what was visible to the eye versus the actual extent of the blaze was not the same. Numerous attempts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful whilst emergency and fire personnel were being dispatched to the scene. When fire and rescue services arrived on the scene, the fire spread to a second section of China Town and started to burn more aggressively in certain areas.

“Fire crews from Melkbos, Milnerton, Brooklyn, Epping, City Bowl and Strand managed to contain the blaze, and we are grateful for the hard work and dedication shown by the various firefighters on the scene.”

He also said he was grateful that no one had been injured.

Dion Visser, an animal health technician at the animal quarantine station next to Sable Square. had a “bird’s view” of the fire on Friday, watching the spectacle unfold from the second floor of the building.

He said the smoke had smelled like burning tyres.

“I took a walk outside, and when I got to my gate a fire engine passed me. I couldn’t see past the smoke. When I got closer, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“I watched the fire from the second floor and saw how they used long ladders to reach the top of the building and cut the roof open to spray water through it,” said Mr Visser.