House fires blamed on power cuts

A fire gutted Thandi Bhebhe’s home in Table View just days before Christmas. Picture: Laura Outhet

Table View residents fear power surges following blackouts are to blame for a spate of house fires in the area.

It is no coincidence that the fires come at a time when power cuts have been more frequent and unpredictable, they say.

The latest fire reported by residents was in Arum Road last Friday afternoon. News about it started circulating on Facebook and WhatsApp groups at about 2.30pm. At 3pm, an update from residents near the fire said firefighters had it under control and that it had been confined to a shed.

On Saturday night February 4, there was a fire in Athens Road, where neighbours say the fire started in a shed and quickly spread to the main house.

Neighbour Stephen Twine said he and his wife had called the fire department at 11.23pm. The fire spread so quickly that there was likely something highly flammable in the shed, he said.

“The department arrived by 11.44pm. People’s lives could have been lost in that 21-minute gap. So I urge residents to be more responsible with the storing of flammable materials. There are regulations that limit how you store these things in large quantities,” he said.

Jessica Hanely, of Table View, told Tabletalk that there had been load shedding that evening from 8pm to 10pm.

Meanwhile, Thandi Bhebhe, said half of her home in Hunter Street, Table View, was destroyed when a fire started in her garage just before Christmas last year.

“I was on my way from work that day when I received the call that the house was on fire. My family was at the house but didn’t realise there was a fire until they started smelling smoke.

“When they investigated, the fire was already getting big and spreading in the garage. Luckily we have a neighbour who works in the fire department and they really helped us on what to do etc. Many of our neighbours came out to help and we are very appreciative of that.”

One side of the house was damaged and the roof collapsed, and Ms Bhebhe and her family are now living in a Blouberg flat while repairs are done.

“One of the investigators appointed by my insurance company said that the fire was started by an electrical fault. It’s very disheartening that this happened due to no fault of our own. We are stressed beyond comprehension right now. It’s traumatising, and the emotional and psychological damage this has caused on my family is intense,” she said.

Power surges had previously damaged her fridge, she said.

Table View Neighbourhood Watch spokeswoman Laura Outhet, said they had not seen final reports from the fire department detailing the causes of the recent house fires. “However, we advise the public to please be cautious when the power is restored after load shedding. The surge may cause sparks in certain electrical equipment, which could trigger sparks which may fall onto flammable materials.

“We would also advise members of the public to keep storage areas clear of clutter. Review which items are being stored next to one another as chemicals may leak and mix causing flammable items to come into contact with ignition sources,” she said.

In an emergency, the watch can be contacted at 084 383 1814.

When approached for comment, Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse referred Tabletalk to the City’s media office. Neither it nor Eskom responded to questions by deadline.

Firefighters responded to a fire in a shed in Arum Road last Friday. Picture: Candice van Schalkwyk
The house fire in Athens Road on February 4. Picture: Candice van Schalkwyk