Two men and girl, 12, die in Joe Slovo fire

Joe Slovo Park residents survey the aftermath of the weekend fire that claimed the lives of two men and a 12-year-old girl.

A weekend fire in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, claimed the lives of two men and a 12-year-old girl.

The fire department responded to the blaze in Joe Slovo Park’s Ekuphumleni squatter camp at about 10.50pm on Saturday, according to City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse.

It took 40 firefighters from Milnerton, Bellville, Goodwood, Brooklyn, Epping, Melkbosstrand and Salt River fire stations until 1.20am the following morning to extinguish the fire.

The cause of the fire was unknown and the scene was handed over to the police, said Mr Carelse.

The fire destroyed 20 shacks that 73 people called home, according to City disaster risk management spokeswoman Charlotte Powell.

The South African Social Security Agency had been asked to provide humanitarian relief, she said.

Joe Slovo resident John Gontshi said he was woken by shouts and screams on Friday night.

“I live about 50m away from where the fire was happening. I was afraid that the fire would spread out of control and my place would also burn down. But neighbours in our community came out and tried the best they could to minimise the damage. Had it not been for them, I feel we would have lost more lives and more houses with people’s belongings. I’m just so sad that three people died during all of this.”

Another resident, Andile Kanti, said: “People need to stop building recklessly. You can’t just build two-storey shacks everywhere and think it is going to be safe when an incident like a fire happens.

“These structures become dangerous when there are fires, floods and other natural disasters.

“The City should also put its foot down and say no to this illegal occupation of land and illegal building.

“We need a very good plan to make sure some people here are moved to another community. I’m sure there are open spaces near here where a new community can be established.”

Ward councillor Anthony Benadie said he and the City would be helping the fire victims, and he sent his condolences to the families of those who had died.

“The City deployed solid waste mechanical vehicles to assist in the clean-up operation and will continue to do so until the site is cleaned,” he said.

Meanwhile Colleen Pietersen, the founder of TLC Outreach Projects, said the non-profit organisation was collecting bedding, school clothes and other basic needs for the fire victims.

“We want to help these families get back on their feet. One positive is that the school holidays are coming up, but we would really like to get some school clothes, shoes and stationery by the next term after the upcoming holidays.

“Our offices at the Table View police station are where people can drop off items or they can give us a call for items to be collected on 021 204 4575,” she said.

Twenty shacks that 73 people called home were destroyed in the fire, according to the City.