Cape firefighters forced to flee fire scene where babies died after attack
Cape Town – Interfering community members, who attacked fire and rescue crews, causing them to abandon a wendy house on fire in Delft, have been blamed for the death of twin brothers and their parents.
According to community leader Dineo Masui, after a confrontation between one resident and a firefighter, the group of firefighters dispatched to extinguish the blaze packed up their equipment and left the area, refusing to return even after being offered a police escort.
Masui said: “I was so disturbed and confused by what happened. I don’t understand how firefighters could just up and leave a scene like that. The fire was still burning and bodies lying in the open like that.
“I know there was a confrontation between one of their team members and one of the area’s residents, who was upset at the crews for arriving late to the scene. However, I had not foreseen the disaster that would stem from that.
“Everything went downhill at a scene already so sensitive. I struggled alone to get the firefighters to come back to the scene and the police to assist me. The family was there and residents looking on at the dead family. We could even see the children, their small bodies. It was horrible, and I can’t imagine worse for that family’s three surviving children.”
Masui said although she did not condone the actions of the residents involved in the altercation, she was disappointed by how the firefighters responded.
“For me, that was the third fire I had to attend to this weekend in my area. Not to say much but, what I witnessed this weekend was completely sad and disappointing.
“Incidents like these are so traumatic and can only be bearable if we work together than in factions, like we did this Sunday. If we are to think back, we managed to expose innocent children to even more trauma unnecessarily over something we could handle better as adults,” she said.
The City said its fire and rescue services arrived on the scene at 10.54pm on Saturday, with firefighters from Belhar, Bellville and Lansdowne Road. It said the situation had escalated to a point of no return, leaving the three crews with no other option but to leave the area to protect themselves and their equipment.
Spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said he was not shocked the crews had left the area in fear of their lives, after being directly threatened and verbally assaulted by residents.
Carelse said: “Fire crews from Belhar, Bellville and Lansdowne Road were dispatched to the scene of a dwelling alight in Palm Street.
“Unfortunately, while attending to the fire, crews were verbally assaulted, threatened and one staff member manhandled by individuals of the community.
“Fearing for their safety, the crews returned to their various stations, only to return under police escort.
“What the community may be overlooking is how they stood by and took no initiative to pacify tensions or offer our firefighters support. Firefighters are in constant attack in local communities and their choice to leave volatile environments is justified.”
Meanwhile, the deceased couple’s three surviving children, aged between 17 and 9, have been put in the care of their aunt Jo-Anne Moses, whose only call for aid was for the government to assist her with a home, to house her niece and nephews.
Police have opened a death inquest for investigation.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.