File photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has blamed negligence and the incorrect storage of gas cylinders for a fire that left four firefighters injured on Wednesday morning. 

The firefighters were injured as they were responding to a fire that broke out at an education building on Proton road in Belhar at 5am. 

The city's Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services Alderman JP Smith in a statement explained that the fire started in a pile of wood stored next to a steel container.

"Radiated heat then spread to the steel container and ignited the personal protective equipment. The fire then spread to where the liquid petroleum gas was stored. 

"The cylinder subsequently overheated and exploded. In this case, the cylinders were stored in an area where they overheated because of the fire.

"The City has indicated time and again, and as recently as Sunday, that negligence plays a role in a number of fires that our staff respond to.

Smith added that, while he was grateful that the firefighting staff only sustained minor injuries, he was aware that the incident could have led to serious injury or even fatality.

He confirmed that he would be visiting the injured firefighters this week, including one who was inside the container at the time of the explosion 

"The City’s fire fighters are a passionate team dedicated to saving lives and property. It can be a thankless job at times, but I salute them for their bravery and their commitment to keeping residents and the city safe.

"Building safety in respect of fires has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. The City’s Fire Life Safety Inspectorate conducted nearly 1 700 building inspections in the last financial year and responded to 280 complaints. 

"They issued 1 281 written notices for contraventions of the Community Fire Safety By-Law and two Section 56 notices to building owners to appear in court.

News of the injury of firefighters comes days after three firefighters who perished in a fire at a Joburg building were laid to rest. 

Simphiwe Moropane, 28, Mduduzi Ndlovu, 40, and Khathutshelo Muedi, 37 die trying to put out a fire at a building housing the Gauteng health, human settlements and Cogta departments.