Off-duty KZN fireman hero of CBD blaze

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iol news pic fire engine cross section INLSA File picture by: Bongiwe Mchunu

Durban - An off-duty Durban fireman has been praised for extinguishing a fire that killed a 29-year-old man in a CBD flat early on Thursday, and preventing a blaze that could have swept through the high-rise building.

The fire on the 25th floor of the City Life building in Anton Lembede (Smith) Street saw the fireman, identified as Seluleko Nene, rushing to the flat from his flat upstairs at 3am.

Nene ran out of his room on the 26th floor in his pyjamas after hearing screams of “fire”.

”Residents had broken down the door and he came to help them, took charge and led the attack,” said Durban fire brigade commander, Max Magnussen.

He said Nene, a young firefighter who had been working with the fire brigade for less than two years, had extinguished the fire before reporting the incident. The dead man has been identified as Thembani Ngcobo.

The burnt body was found on the floor near the bed, which is believed to be where the fire started, as it was the only furniture that had caught alight. Magnussen said no foul play was suspected.

The flat has a communal kitchen and residents are not allowed to cook in their rooms to avoid the risk of fire.

Magnussen said the building security guards had informed Ngcobo’s sister of the tragedy. She lives with him, but was not there when the fire broke out.

Ngcobo’s next door neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she did not know what had caused the fire.

“We were awoken by the sound of banging on the wooden board dividing our room from his. And we saw smoke coming into our room. My boyfriend and his brother went to knock on his door and he didn’t open,” she said.

“(When) we realised there was a big fire inside the room, we started shouting.”

She said other residents had run out of their rooms to the burning room and after managing to force the door open, they grabbed fire extinguishes from the corridors. “… a guy (Nene) came with more fire extinguishes to the front and sprayed (them) on the fire.”

Magnussen said that although the wooden partitions separating the rooms had a two-hour fire-resistance rating, the ceiling was made of a “fire vulnerable material”, which could have resulted in the fire spreading quickly.

Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said the cause of the fire was unknown.

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