Fireman stoned while tackling shack fire

Fireman stoned while tackling shack fire

16 February 2009

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South Africa — A firefighter who was helping to extinguish a blaze that destroyed about 80 shacks in Philippi, was stoned by some of the residents.

More than 300 people were left homeless on Sunday morning after a fire ripped through nearly all the shacks, displacing about 320 people.

The city’s Disaster Risk Management Department’s Wilfred Solomons-Johannes told the Cape Argus that the fire had razed about 80 shacks in the area of the Brown’s Farm informal settlement.

He said one of the firefighters battling to extinguish the blaze had been stoned by some of the residents.

“No one knows why, or what happened, but this gentleman was stoned by some of these people,” Solomons-Johannes said.

The firefighter had received minor injuries to his lip, he added.

“These guys were there to help the people.

“I don’t know what went wrong, or why they (the residents) behaved in this manner and tried to hurt him,” Solomons-Johannes said.

He said no injuries had been reported among the residents.

“We got the call at around 10.20 on Sunday morning and 12 fire engines were dispatched to the scene immediately.

“No one was injured,” he said.

Solomons-Johannes said his department had made the Brown’s Farm community hall available to house the affected residents, but that they had “simply refused”.

“They did not want to stay at the hall.

“They told us they wanted to protect their belongings.

“We had to respect that,” he said.

A relief organisation had provided the affected residents with meals, clothes and blankets on Sunday, he added.

“We have also seen to it that rebuilding materials were delivered to these people very quickly,” Solomons-Johannes said.

Meanwhile, the Cape Town regional fire station control room confirmed that one of their staff had been stoned while at the scene of the fire in Philippi on Sunday.

According to an operator, the fireman, based at the Gugulethu fire station, had returned to work after the incident and was believed to be “fine”.

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