Fire razes popular Soweto venue

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IOL  Ubuntu Fire70 THE STAR Smoke engulfs a firefighter at the Ubuntu Kraal in Orlando West on Sunday. The cause of the blaze was unknown. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Soweto - Firefighters battled to extinguish a fire at Soweto’s Ubuntu Kraal on Sunday afternoon, the second in a year.

A fire broke out at the entertainment venue’s storeroom during a church gathering. The cause of the fire was unknown, but emergency officials believed the extent of the fire was worsened by the highly flammable contents that were kept in the room.

City of Joburg Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said gas cylinders and other contents in the room made it difficult to extinguish the fire. “Most structures that are here use thatch roofing and it can easily burn,” he added.

He said no one had been injured.

Augustino Gundane, an employee at the venue, said items in the storeroom included chairs, tables, tents, paint and a welding machine.

The venue is used for weddings and other big events.

Ubuntu Kraal chief executive Nancy Nxumalo said this was the second major fire there in the space of a year.

“In October, there was a fire, and nobody knows how it started. We were still fixing that damage, and now this.”

She said her business had faced a lot of challenges in the past three years. They had suffered damage from floods, and her brother and venue co-founder died last May.

“The chapel is down and the restaurant next to the chapel is burnt down, along with equipment worth millions.”

Nxumalo added she was grateful to the community and their support during the fire. She said their involvement in extinguishing the inferno had helped reduce the amount of damage on the premises.

“The community was here with buckets of water. Their involvement was enormous. If they were not around, even the office would have been gone,” said Nxumalo.

Mulaudzi said that since last Monday emergency services had had to extinguish five major fires in the city.

He said a fire safety campaign would be launched because of the advent of winter. The campaign would be targeted mainly at informal settlements.

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