Eight homes gutted

Audrey and Nigel Lewin speaks about the fire at their home in Tafelsig.

Nineteen people were left homeless after a fire destroyed eight homes in Woodlands and Tafelsig recently.
According to the City’s Fire and Rescue Services, six wendy houses and two formal houses were affected.

In Megan Street in Tafelsig, 12 people, including children, were displaced on Wednesday May 10 at 11.13am. Five wooden structures were burnt to the ground and two houses were damaged badly.
Liezl Moodie from the Fire and Rescue Services, said one man was injured and suffered burn wounds on his left arm. “The patient received medical treatment on scene and was taken to hospital for further medical treatment and observation. The cause of the fire is undetermined, she said.

Ms Moodie said resources were dispatched from Mitchell’s Plain, Gugulethu and Lakeside fire stations.

A devastated Lucil Mattheys told the Plainsman everything was lost in the fire, including her six children’s school clothing, books and important documents. The youngest child is eight months old and the eldest, 14 years old.

“I am not sure what to feel. I am trying to be strong even though I am not sure where we will be sleeping,” she said.
Ms Mattheys said the most important items which were needed were blankets, beds and clothing. “The wendy house was in an ‘L’ shape and spacious. The fire spread so quickly and destroyed everything,” she said.

Their neighbour, Audrey Lewin, said the fire had affected her wendy house too burning everything in her kitchen and bedroom.

Four people, including a three-year-old had been living in the house. “We are very fortunate that people did not die. However, we are a bit sad about the items which were destroyed such as the beds, a stove, cupboards and TV,” she said.

In a separate incident, seven people were displaced in Frieda Locke Crescent in New Woodlands on Monday May 8.
Ms Moodie said the fire department responded at 12.34pm. She said the cause of the fire is undetermined and that no one was injured.

Ms Moodie said two fire engines, one rescue vehicle and one tanker were dispatched from Mitchell’s Plain, Gugulethu and Epping fire stations.

Patricia Davids, owner of the wendy house, said her children, aged four and 17, had been sleeping when the fire started.

“The eldest woke up and felt something warm. That’s when he noticed the fire. But, what he found was that the door was locked on the outside.

“Anyway, he managed to get out safely with his brother,” she said.

Ms Davids said when the neighbours saw the fire, they assisted.

“The beds, electrical equipment, clothing and beds were all destroyed. This is something to feel sad about, because it’s items that you’ve worked hard for over the years,” she said.

Ms Davids needs assistance with clothing and blankets.

Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association chairperson, Norman Jantjes, who is the former Mitchell’s Plain director of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) and independent Ward 76 councillor (1996 to 2001), said housing was a huge issue in Mitchell’s Plain.

“Hundreds of people are waiting for a house in Mitchell’s Plain. So, what do people do? They become backyard dwellers. We are disappointed in the City, for not providing enough housing opportunities for our people. Many people cannot afford to buy houses these days so they look for an alternative because of the lack of housing assistance,” he said.

“I feel sorry for those who have lost their homes, but as MURA (Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association) we will put pressure on the City to provide housing opportunities. Back in 2001, there weren’t many people living in wendy houses but these days it has become a permanent feature, with hundreds of people as backyard dwellers,” he said.

Mr Jantjes said winter had become synonymous with fires, to which wooden wendy houses were particularly vulnerable. “The City should be active in our community and educate people about fire safety. People are bound to use heaters and lamps during the cold months. But this is short-term, the long-term goal should be getting houses for people,” he said.

Ms Moodie said the Fire and Rescue Service and Disaster Risk Management unit ran educational programmes throughout the year which focused on fire safety in and around the home. These included door to door interventions in vulnerable areas.

The Plainsman sent questions to the City of Cape Town about the by-laws relating to backyard dwellers, but by the time this edition went to print, they had not responded.