Mother mourns toddler, 5, who died in fire

Lauren Lee Herman, 5, died in a fire.

A Beacon Valley mother is devastated after her daughter, 5, died when her grandmother’s wendy house burned down on Saturday October 29.

Lauren Lee Herman was asleep at her grandmother Belinda Herman’s wendy house in Metropolitan Street, when the wendy house caught fire at 3.48am – the cause is believed to have been a burning candle.

Theo Layne, spokesman for the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service, said Lauren Lee died of fatal burn wounds.

“The fire left two people displaced,” he said.

“The cause of the fire at this stage is still undetermined, pending a police investigation,” said Mr Layne.

Lauren Lee’s cousin, Leticia Jansen, 32, who lives two doors away, said by the time neighbours tried to extinguish the fire, it was too late.

“We stood there and we did not hear a sound. She was already dead.”

Ms Jansen was at home when she spotted another cousin running toward her, shouting that their grandmother’s house was burning.

“I looked out of the window and the flames were already sky high. When I rushed out of my house, my grandmother came across the road screaming. My cousin shouted ‘she is dead, she is dead’. I asked her who? And she said our little baby, our Lauren. We tried to get close to the burning wendy house, but the flames were too high.”

She said it was not the first fire the family had experienced in recent years.

“Every house my family stayed in burnt down. I am still in shock that this happened. It feels so unreal.”

Police spokesman Captain FC Van Wyk confirmed an inquest docket had been opened.

Ms Jansen said Lauren was a bubbly girl who was full of life.

“She would get up early in the morning to ride her bike. She was just a bundle of joy, that smile I will miss.”

Lauren’s mother was too emotional to comment.

Last week, six family members died in a devastating fire at their house in Netreg Road, in Bonteheuwel, in the early morning hours of Wednesday October 26.

Sisters Florence, 25, and Gail Bennett, 20, with Florence’s sons, Chadwin, 8, two-year-old Chadley, Gail’s son Daylin, 15 months, and the sisters’ cousin, Edwin Adams, 11, died in the fire that ripped through their house.

It is believed the fire was started by a candle which was being used because the light fitting was faulty.

In June, tragedy struck an Eastridge family when four people perished in a fire and another four died in hospital, with the youngest victims only two or three years old (“Eight die in Eastridge blaze,” Plainsman, June 15).

Provincial police communications officer, Lieutenant Colonel André Traut, said SAPS forensic fire experts confirmed that an electrical fault had caused the fire (“Gutted Eastridge home set to be rebuilt,” Plainsman October 5).

Mr Layne said general check-ups on house wiring is not specifically governed, but it could be “prudent to ensure that all wiring is in a sound condition at all times”. He added that electrical wiring connected to any appliance must always be checked when using the item.

When the Plainsman asked Mr Layne about what the fire regulations state about having fire extinguishers or fire hoses on your property, he said: “Any flat that is three or more stories must have a hose reel and/or extinguishers in place (dependant on when the building was completed and the regulations applicable at the time).”

Regarding safety around an open flame he advised that matches and lighters be kept out of the reach of children.

Cut candles in half to prevent them falling over; use a candle holder; and do not smoke in bed.

Anyone with information about the incident can contact the Mitchell’s Plain police on 021 370 1600 or Crime Stop at 08600 10111.