Runaway fires leave scores homeless in KwaZulu-Natal

Runaway fires in Malvern, west of Durban. | ALS Paramedics

Runaway fires in Malvern, west of Durban. | ALS Paramedics

Published Jul 9, 2024


Durban — KwaZulu-Natal disaster response teams have been commended for their “heroic” efforts in battling the runaway fires that devastated parts of the province on Sunday evening.

The widespread veld fires affected the King Cetshwayo, uThukela, and uMzinyathi district municipalities.

The local municipalities of uMlalazi, eMthonjaneni, Okhahlamba, and uMvoti, were also affected, resulting in damage to houses and vehicles.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Rev Thulasizwe Buthelezi said: “We are grateful to the brave firefighters in these municipalities who, through their swift response, ensured that no fatalities or injuries occurred during these incidents.

“Our disaster management teams will ensure that residents impacted by the fires receive the necessary support to rebuild their lives.“

Cogta said assessments were ongoing to determine the full extent of the damage caused by the fires and recommended preventive measures.

Residents were urged to check weather forecasts before making any long journeys.

ALS Paramedics Medical Services cautioned residents of Durban and surrounding areas of the inclement weather after it responded to incidents where a truck was blown over and multiple trees had fallen on the roads due to the strong winds.

ALS Paramedics spokesperson Garrith Jamieson said there were also reports of swelling waves and urged residents to be vigilant. He said they were also called to treat multiple people with difficulty breathing because of the smoke inhalation in Malvern west of Durban.

The Msunduzi Municipality was on high alert following the severe wind warning for parts of KwaZulu-Natal on Monday.

In a statement, Msunduzi municipal manager Sabelo Hlela said: “Msunduzi Municipality’s Fire Rescue has responded to a total of 66 incidents throughout the city.”

Hlela said that most of the incidents were attended to, prioritising based on the danger to lives, property and infrastructure as reported by callers.

“While we managed to address most incidents, some fires naturally burnt out on their own.

“Our resources were significantly stretched as we are currently in our peak grass and bush fire season. We had 21 staff members on duty, with the option to call in additional staff on overtime if needed. Our available resources included four specialised grass and bush vehicles, two fire engines for building fires and backup support from the district, with the closest station being Ashburton. Water carriers were also made available,” Hlela said.

KwaZulu-Natal Social Development MEC Mbali Shinga has called on the citizens to remain vigilant as changing weather patterns continue to pose significant risks.

Meanwhile, the King Cetshwayo District Municipality cautioned community members to expect heavy winds this week, which may spark more fires.

The district reported that the fires ravaged many households and vehicles at the uMlalazi, Nkandla and Mthonjaneni municipalities and that there were, fortunately, no injuries or deaths reported.

Acting Mayor Sikhumbuzo Dlamini called on all five municipalities under King Cetshwayo District to re-call all off-duty disaster management staff to assist the local fire departments in battling the “uncontrollable” blazes.

“The flames affected more than eight wards in Mthonjaneni, where more than seven households burnt to the ground.

“Firefighters and disaster members were still busy trying to extinguish the blaze at ward 7 on Monday,” read the statement.

On Sunday, the SA Weather Service (Saws) warned KZN residents of cold weather with damaging winds and waves resulting in destruction to property, difficult driving conditions, and power interruptions as cold fronts move across the country. It also warned of wild fires.

Residents are urged to call the toll-free disaster hotline on 0800 111 258 to report fires.

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