Couple loses everything in veld fire

Couple loses everything in veld fire

29 October 2010

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South Africa —  A couple from the West Rand “lost everything” on Wednesday when municipal workers apparently started a fire in a veld in Venterpos, outside Westonaria, and an “extremely strong wind” wreaked havoc.

Thys Badenhorst, 60, who lives in Suid Street, Venterspos, was on his way home after 11:00 on Wednesday when he spotted the flames in the veld.

His wife, Hazel, 59, was at home with their daughter, Tanya, 30, when a gale-force wind “pushed that fire like it was being chased”.

Within hours there was nothing left after the fire flattened and melted the fence “like match sticks”.


“When I saw the flames I stopped and asked the workers what they were doing. There were about 12 of them (workers). They just laughed at me,” Badenhorst told Beeld on Thursday.

Hazel came running out of the kitchen when her husband called her to help their sons – Thys, 26, and Dirk, 38 – at the house next door.

“We took a hose pipe and extinguished the flames in front of the kids’ house,” said Badenhorst.

After the flames were brought under control at the one house, the wind set the long grass next to the wooden fence on fire and accelerated it towards the Badenhorsts’ house.

Rex, a male Rottweiler, and Lucy, a Chow bitch, were trying to escape the flames along with two other dogs – Meisiekind and Worsetjie – when they ran into the house through the back door to find shelter from the flames.

All four dogs and five birds were burnt to death in the rooms.

Wind suddenly changed direction

Jorrie Jordaan, chief executive of public safety in the West Rand District Municipality (WRDM), says Fred Otto, a fire prevention inspector, was on his way to a funeral in Venterspos at about 12:00 when he saw the smoke.

Otto went looking for the fire and was present when the wind suddenly changed direction. He called the emergency number.

“The fire brigade wouldn’t have been able to do anything, since the wooden fence, car tyres and other rubbish in the yard helped the fire along,” Jordaan said.

“We’re quite used to the poor water pressure in the area.

“That’s why we called for extra fire trucks from Westonaria and Randfontein.

“They got enough water from the fire hydrant to extinguish the flames, but it had already spread too far,” said Jordaan. There was a shortage of water because the family uses a prepaid system, says Jordaan.

Possessions destroyed

Some of the family’s most treasured possessions, collected over the years and even inherited, lay amongst the rubble.

Badenhorst’s blood pressure monitor and the machine with which he has to measure his blood sugar every day were also destroyed by the blaze.

“Everything we’ve been collecting for 38 years is gone,” said Badenhorst, who earns a living by doing carpentry and handyman work.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do now,” he said.

Lienkie Lefakane from the Westonaria police station confirmed that a case of arson and malicious damage to property has been opened.

“Warning statements were taken from two men. No-one has been charged with any crime.”

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