Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Parliament blaze: Fire department’s report would assist ongoing investigation

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jan 7, 2022

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Cape Town - Parliament said that the report of the City of Cape Town’s Fire Department which it received on Friday on the blaze in the parliamentary complex would assist the ongoing investigations that are under way.

Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo confirmed that the presiding officers had received the fire and safety report from City of Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Mothapo also said the report contained preliminary observations of the firefighters during the course of their work, which was a standard procedure when dealing with incidents of this nature.

“The information does not in any way purport to provide conclusive findings and evidence regarding the cause and the circumstances surrounding the fire that gutted certain buildings at the Parliamentary precinct.

“The responsibility to investigate the source of the fire rests with the law enforcement agencies, and their investigation is currently under way,” Mothapo said.

He also said the fire department’s report was important and would assist the ongoing investigations.

“These investigations must be afforded space to unfold. Parliament will only comment after these investigations are concluded and we are confident that they will be finalised in due course, and will provide concrete evidence and findings regarding the fire,” Mothapo said.

He made the statement after the City of Cape Town’s fire department said earlier that it found that the sprinkler system was last serviced in 2017.

This emerged in a report the city made public, with Hill-Lewis saying it was a post-incident report prepared by the city’s fire department on the fire that engulfed Parliament.

“In the interests of transparency, and following great public interest, we release it publicly without any additional comment,” he said.

The report, dated January 4, said it was not “an official” fire report on the incident that left extensive damage to the Old Assembly and the National Assembly.

“It is for information purposes and provides the observations of city fire safety officers who worked on the scene,” it said.

In the report, divisional commander Wayne Visser said he did a “brief check” of fire suppression equipment and related fire safety matters at the Old Assembly building site.

“The external fire hydrants were well marked and maintained; adequate access provided.

“The sprinkler control valve set on the southern façade of the Old Assembly building had not activated. Sprinklers did not activate.

“The sprinklers were last serviced last in 2017, with service scheduled for (February) 2020,” Visser said.

He also said It was unclear which apportion of the building was actually fitted out with sprinklers.

“The required layout block plan at the valve set was illegible,” he said.

He said the fire detection and alarm was present but he was uncertain of the extent of the system, because of the extensive damage that had occurred.

Visser also said general fire informational signage was well presented although some non-SABS signs were found.

“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.

“The “rabbit warren” of locked office configurations off feeder passages negatively affected any ventilation occurring from inner spaces,” he said.

According to Visser, the emergency staircases were poorly ventilated with minimal natural vents encountered to the outside, and that no mechanical venting of the staircases was observed.

“Wall panelling and décor materials presented additional fire loading throughout the building,” he said.

Visser’s observations were confirmed by station commander JJ Williams, who said that during his walk around of the affected areas he found that the National Assembly sprinkler valve was not serviced.

“Service date was February 2017 and this needs to be done every three years and the valve appeared to be closed.

“If properly serviced, this valve should have been locked with a chain in an open position and a block plan would have been available showing system layout,” Williams said.

He also said the lifts continued to operate despite a “break glass” unit at one lift being activated.

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Political Bureau

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