When a fire broke out at Village Heights in Lavender Hill last week, the first thing that False Bay College student Charnai van Harte grabbed was her books.
Charnai, her father, Daniel Jansen, and sister, Marcia Jansen, are among 50 people whose homes were destroyed in the blaze on Wednesday April 5.
Nobody was injured when the fire, which started at around 1pm, engulfed 15 wood and iron homes. “I managed to save my books,” said Charnai. It is my last year studying policing.”
Her father, who is disabled, said he had been sitting opposite their home and “felt helpless” when he saw the flames consume it.
“I couldn’t do anything,” he said.
Marcia said they had lost some of their late mother’s belongings. “We couldn’t even save our late mother’s memorabilia she left for us.”
Community leaders are now trying frantically to help the residents replace what they lost in the fire.
Aysha Davids, community leader of Village Heights, said she had been called to the scene and had witnessed how “people’s homes had gone up in flames”.
She said the fire department came quickly after she called them.
According to Liezl Moodie of the City’s Fire and Rescue Service,the cause of fire could have been a lit cigarette.
“The City’s Fire and Rescue Service response comprised of four fire engines and two water tankers. Resources were dispatched from Constantia, Fish Hoek, Mitchell’s Plain, Wynberg, Gugulethu and Ottery fire stations,” said Ms Moodie.
Ward 67 councillor Gerry Gordon said Disaster Management helped people with food after the fire and on Thursday April 6. “Starter pack materials were delivered so that the families could rebuild their houses.”
Ms Gordon added: “I was here while it happened, and it started to rain but the wind caused the fire to spread quickly.”
The Oudtshoorn family lost all their possessions. Elzane Oudtshoorn said she had cried when she saw their home burn.
Her three children, Clishay, 9, Grant, 6, and Junior, 2, lost all their clothing.
“We were not at home but came when we heard about it. I have lived next to my mother, Manthel, for 11 years.”
Mymoena Scholtz, founder of Where Rainbows Meet, in Vrygrond, who always helps disaster victims in the informal settlements, said they would take clothing to the residents on Monday.
“We were waiting for after the fire victims had a roof over their heads to give clothing as well as a hot meal, We have appealed for other donations, but the support did not come in as yet.”
Ms Scholtz said there needs to be a greater awareness about fire safety. “Most of the time, fires occur due to either a candle, electrical wires or children playing with matches. And flames spreads out of control. I feel awareness within the homes needs to be created. I feel the shacks are too close to each other, and if one shack burns it spreads like nothing else.”
“The leaders risk the lives in trying to give us much support as they can, but more awareness around what cause fires must be done, and also a solution to how they can prevent these fires from spreading and destroying everything that people work hard for must be found. It is more a loss than a gain staying for free and causes emotional and physiological trauma.”
She said she is concerned whenever there is a fire. “We need to come up with a better concept to prevent all the shacks from being destroyed.”
Meanwhile, Ms Davids is also calling on the community to help. “It is very sad and we need assistance urgently to help those 50 people. We need male and female clothing of all sizes as well as shoes for adults and children as well.
“You can drop at 17 St Bernard, in St Montague Village. We also need to feed this families, so please assist us. We thank you in advance.”
Contact Ms Davids on 073 882 2195 if you can help.