Cape Town: The report by City of Cape Town’s Fire Department, into the Parliament fire that occurred earlier this week, has revealed several insights from professional fire investigators.
The post-incident report was released on Friday by Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis. He said the city publicly released the report without any additional comment “in the interests of transparency, and following great public interest".
“It reflects the observations of professionals, but does not in any way constitute or substitute for a full forensic investigation conducted by professional fire investigators,” Hill-Lewis said.
He said the report had been sent to the Speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Earlier in the week, Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia De Lille said the department had also brought in a fire expert who would deliver a preliminary report by Friday morning.
“That report will be shared with Madam Speaker and presiding officers, and we will decide together what to do once we have seen the full extent of the cost and what needs to be repaired,” she said.
Over two days, 300 firefighters were on the ground working shifts and more than 60 fire engine vehicles were deployed to put out the fire.
The fire damaged the Old Assembly and the National Assembly wings of the buildings of Parliament, which house the chambers of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.
In its report on Friday, the City Fire Department said the report was for information purposes only and provided the observations of City fire safety officers who had worked on the scene. It was “not an official fire report on the incident”.
The key highlights from the report by fire safety officer Divisional Commander Wayne Visser, who made his observations on Sunday, January 2, between 4pm and 11.30pm:
- The sprinkler control valve set on the southern façade of the Old Assembly building had not activated. The sprinklers did not activate.
- The sprinklers were last serviced in 2017, with a service scheduled for 2020.
- It was unclear which parts of the building were fitted with sprinklers.
- There was a fire detection and alarm system but its extent was unclear as extensive damage had occurred in the fire.
- A major contributing factor to the excessive heat and smoke encountered throughout the building was the open-latching of fire doors onto the fire escape staircases, using small metal latches.
Key highlights from the report by Fire Safety Officer, Station Commander JJ Williams:
- “During my walk around of the affected areas, I found that the National Assembly sprinkler valve was not serviced (Service date was 2017 and this needs to be done every three years) and the valve appeared to be closed.
- “Fire doors were locked in an open position using latches.”
Other key areas of concern mentioned in the report:
- The latching open of fire doors assisted in the spread of the fire.
- It is unclear what portions of the building are fitted with sprinklers. The required block plan is not legible.
- It is unclear if the fire alarm and detection system was operational. No fire alarm was received by the Cape Town Fire Service from the old or new National Assembly buildings.
- An alarm was received after the fire fighters were on the scene, from Tuynhuys adjacent to the assembly buildings.
- The HVAC system failed to shut down, forcing the City to isolate electricity to the block.
- The lift safety trip did not operate.
- Some emergency staircases were overcome by smoke due to the latching open of the fire doors.
The full report can be accessed here: