Cape Town - Joseph Leibrandt dashed to rescue his grandson David Matthews, 4, from a burning shack in the Egoli informal settlement near Grassy Park, but the flames were too fierce for him to save the boy.
Ten shacks were razed by the fire – believed to have been started by a candle – leaving 40 people homeless.
David’s mother, Shireen Mathews, 27, awoke at about 2am on Tuesday and found the shack in which she was sleeping with two children was on fire. She rushed out with her younger child, Ursulla, to get help from her parents, who lived next door.
Leibrandt hurried to the shack to try to save David.
“It was too late. The blaze was too strong and flames were coming out of the door. I tried all I could, but it was too late. I suffered burns trying to save him,” Leibrandt said.
“His mother knocked at the door and she was shouting that her shack was on fire. The side where the bed was had burned completely,” he said.
He suspected the candle was the cause of the fire.
“We have no electrical connections. We use candles and it is sad because we have been staying here for almost 30 years now. The candle fell and the fire started,” said Leibrandt.
“The shack was made of cardboard and plastic, that’s why this happened too fast.”
David’s grandmother, Mildren Leibrandt, 51, said: “Everything was already destroyed when the firefighters arrived.
“David was taken out of the shack already dead. He was a lovely boy.
“I can’t even describe how we feel.”
When the Cape Times went to the scene on Wednesday, residents were helping to rebuild the shack, while the family were gathered at the Leibrandts’ home.
Matthews was in shock and could not be interviewed.
In Valhalla Park, residents who lost their homes in a fire early last week say they are planning to petition the City of Cape Town about the quantity of building materials they have been given, which they say is inadequate.
Each household has been given 25 corrugated sheets, one window, one door and about 15 planks to build temporary structures.
The fire destroyed 350 homes, leaving about 1 400 people homeless.