Family destitute as fire guts home

Neighbours rallied to clean a pensioner’s fire ravaged home.

A Rocklands pensioner and her family were left homeless when a fire, started on a field next to their backyard, ravaged their home at the weekend.

Catherine Steyn, 65, two of her children, four grandchildren and a girl the family was looking after, are staying with Pastor Peter John Petersen and his family in Portland.

Her daughter and her son are with her in-laws.

She said they lost all of their worldly possessions but “thank God our lives were spared and no one was injured”.

Ms Steyn’s house was gutted and the wendy house, where her son and his family were staying, was razed to the ground – leaving six children and six adults displaced.

“My heart is sore but I am grateful for all of the help from the community and our neighbours,” she said.

Ms Steyn said they were all asleep in the house, when her daughter called from the wendy house that the Capricorn field was on alight.

“My son went to look around the corner, when he saw guys running away and the flames peaking in the sky. The wendy caught alight. The fire was uncontrollable,” she said.

She said all they could do was grab the children.

“We heard the windows burst and the gas in the fridges explode.

“I just thank God nobody was hurt, everyone is safe,” she said.

Ms Steyn had contacted her church, Tell Them Ministeries via a WhatsApp group chat, requesting for them to pray for her and her family who had lost their home.

“They immediately responded by coming to our aid.

“I do not have insurance. They have pledged to help restore and make our house comfortable for us to return home,” she said.

They have opened up a fund to which donations can be sent.

Parishioners and volunteers Cyril Macaley, Pastor Robert Valentine and Arnold Gelderbloem clean up.

Pastor Petersen said they had a structural engineer inspect the property and were working around the clock to repair and restore the house; and make it more liveable.

He hopes to have the family return within the next ten days.

“The fire took all of seven minutes and we will do whatever we can to assist this family, who had lost everything,” he said.

Pastor Petersen said he was glad his house was big enough to shelter the Steyn family.

City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse said they received the emergency call at 2.09am, alerting them to a wendy house alight on Saturday February 20.

Fire crews from Gugulethu, Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain were on the scene and “upon arrival, crews found the informal dwelling as well as the maisonette alight,” he said.

The fire was extinguished by 3.57am.

Mr Carelse said a maisonette was damaged and the wendy house was completely destroyed in the fire.

“No injuries were reported. At the time of the incident a total of 12 people were displaced,” he said.

Mr Carelse said the cause of the fire had not yet been established.

“All requests for assistance are assessed by the relevant departments,” he said.

Rocklands ward councillor Danny Christians had dropped a few things with the family but said his hands were tied in giving them a starter kit.

He said the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) prevented the City from providing private landowners with starter kits because money should be used for service delivery.

“Private property owners should have insurance,” he said.