Fire gutted St Montague’s Village people.

Residents love everything in deadly fire

Firefighters could not save any of the structures.

While a community organisation member had been appealing to the community to find the family of a man, 77, who died in a blaze, about 10 families were left stranded after all their belongings were gutted in a fire, at St Montague’s Village, in Military Road, in Lavender Hill, on Friday November 27, at 11.20am.

Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for the City’s Fire and Rescue Service, said one person died when several formal and informal structures were gutted in a fire.

“The City’s Fire and Rescue Service received an emergency call at 11.20am of structures alight on the corners of Military and St Augustine roads, Lavender Hill. Ten firefighting appliances and 44 staff members managed to contain and extinguished the fire at 1.30pm. While busy with firefighting, the body of an elderly man was discovered among the debris and no other injuries were reported. The scene was handed over to the South African Police Service,” said Mr Carelse.

Sergeant Wesley Twigg confirmed that police attended the scene of the fire in Military Road, Lavender Hill.

According to reports about five dwellings were damaged in the blaze. The body of a 77-year-old man was recovered after firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Sergeant Twigg said the cause of the fire is under investigation and an inquest docket was opened.

Rashaad Abrahams, a community leader from the Greater Retreat CAN organisation, was one of a few leaders who assisted the victims. He said they found the identification book of Yusuf Morrison, 77, with the body, who lived in a shack at the back of one of the houses that was ablaze. There were about 10 families on his list who needed items such as clothing and appliances.

“We still need to locate the family of Mr Morrison. Apparently he was formerly of the Bo-Kaap, but we need a blood relative to come forward please.”

One of the victims, Simone Smit, a second-year teaching student and Mr Morrison’s neighbour, said she was alerted to the blaze while invigilating a classroom during exams at Levana Primary School that her “hok” (shack) was on fire.

At first her colleague Shamiega Charity, a teacher at the school, thought the smoke came from burnt tyres but soon after they heard the fire came from the Smit family ’s residence. Ms Charity called Ms Smit out of the classroom.

Ms Smit rushed off to find her frantic mother Pastor Naomi Smit, who was standing outside their wood and zinc home. Pastor Smit is the leader of the United Shepherd Church.

The Smits were living on a huge plot, with structures divided into eight spaces used as a dining room, a kitchen and bedrooms.

Ms Smit said the fire brigade could not save their house. “When I got home the fire already destroyed everything while the fire brigade tried to save the shacks.

“Everything, including my laptop, our identity documents, the children’s books and clothes were destroyed. Who knew that the littlest things had so much value. If I knew before I left that morning for work, this would happen, I would never have gone to work,” said Ms Smit.

Two years ago Ms Smit said she tragically lost her father Pastor Edward Smit and now their belongings in the fire. She said her two sons, Noah, 7 was at school and Shayron, 2 was at creche while her two brothers Tashwell was at Muizenberg High in Grade 11 and Samuel in Grade 7 at Prince George Primary.

Ms Smit said the family received one room starter kits from Disaster Risk Management and they are still living on the property. “We are trying to manage and we have been sleeping on chairs since Friday night.”

Councillor Marita Petersen immediately went to the scene after she was alerted about the fire. She said the fire started in Military Road opposite the Seawinds clinic. She said the fire affected formal and informal dwellings in St Cecelia, Military and St Augustine’s roads.

“Three dwellings and 12 informal structures had been destroyed and one adult male sustained fatal burns. I went to the site on Friday and found all services on site. When I left Disaster Risk Management was busy doing assessments. The fire department was still busy putting fires out where the body was. The tenants were not home where the fire allegedly started.”

Ms Petersen said a number of people sent out appeals to help the victims and she has received a donation of blankets. “I have appealed to the mayor’s office for some food parcels. The fire had spread too quickly and literally everything burnt down or was water-damaged. I had spoken to some of the families who said the only thing that they could do was just to get out and make sure the children were safe.”

She said the challenge with fires like these were the type of structure and that there seldom is a decent firebreak between the structures, resulting in the fire spreading rapidly.

“We will support the families as far as we can. I am doing an outreach to assist.

“I do believe that they were still trying to locate the family of the elderly gentleman who is known as Uncle Yussie. I’m not sure but allegedly he had small kids. However, I interviewed a young lady with a baby and a toddler who said that Mr Morrison lived alone in a shack as she also lived on that property.”

If anyone has any information about Mr Morrison’s family, contact Mr Abrahams on 068 121 8825.

Anyone with any information about the fire, can contact Steenberg SAPS on 021 702 9000 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

If anyone wants to assist in helping Ms Petersen with the outreach programme for the fire victims can contact her on 071 936 1045.