Cresslawn house fire: Firefighters are not to blame

Ward councillor Simon Lapping expressed his concern with the state of the fire department and emergency services and called for a full investigation.

Ekurhuleni’s emergency services denied all allegations of a “lacklustre” performance at a house fire in Cresslawn in August.

A house on Sycamore Street was nearly completely gutted in the early hours of the morning on August 26.

Ward councillor Simon Lapping expressed his concern with the state of the fire department and emergency services and called for a full investigation.

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Lapping said the occupants of the house became aware of the fire in the ceiling at 1am and attempted to call the fire department without success.

“The family eventually got through and the fire department arrived at 2.17am, only to discover the fire engine had no water in it. Residents managed to find a nearby fire hydrant. However, the fire truck did not have the correct connections to attach the pipes.

“Luckily, another fire hydrant was found and the pipes were connected with the assistance of the residents,” Lapping said in a statement.

He said the fire department started to douse the fire at 2.50am, some two hours after receiving the call from the distressed family, even though the fire station is a mere 2km away from the house.

“The lacklustre manner in which the fire department responded to the fire is unacceptable. The emergency services have a direct responsibility to respond in a timeous and professional manner in ensuring the safety of Ekurhuleni residents. Furthermore, it is unacceptable that firefighters lacked the technical know-how to effectively deal with the disaster,” said Lapping.

In reaction to the accusations, William Ntladi, spokesperson for the emergency services, said the department’s response to the scene was in accordance to the international code of practice and standard operating procedures as per National Fire Protection Association 1041 and 1001 for firefighters.

He said it took firefighters only four minutes to arrive at the scene.

“On arrival, part of the house’s roof had already collapsed. The immediate intervention was initiated to extinguish the blaze. Water from the first arriving pump was used prior to connection to a water tanker which responded from Tembisa.

“The first major pumper that arrived on the scene had 3 400 litres of water in the tank, which can be emptied within minutes, depending on the number of discharge hoses in use and the diameter thereof. On arrival of a water tanker with a 12 000-litre capacity, relay pumping was initiated to complement water from the first pump,” added Ntladi.

He said there are two types of connections for water hydrants, the bayonet type and the screw type. Both types of connections are part of the basic equipment readily available in fire engines. Either one of them will be able to fit hydrants around the city.

“As much as we appreciate the assistance from members of the public, we urge everyone not to interfere with active fire operations on a scene. Pulling hoses and other equipment out of fire engines impact negatively on our operations.

“From the arrival of the first pump until the end of the call, there wasn’t any water interruption. From the time active firefighting was initiated until the end, no further structural fire damage was experienced. Part of the house was salvaged and only had water and smoke damage,” Ntladi said.

He reminded residents that fire stations do not have operational control rooms manned 24/7, as all calls are centralised to the municipal emergency call centre in Bedfordview.

“We would like to encourage members of the public to dial our direct call centre emergency number for all life-threatening emergencies.”

011 458 0911: Ekurhuleni life-threatening emergency line.

10177: National toll-free number

112: international toll-free cell phone number.

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