A sombre mood filled Fairview fire station, where two of the three firefighters who died worked.
Simphiwe Moropane, 28, plunged to his death while trying to help trapped workers, and Khathutsheli Muedi, 37, died inside the building while waiting to be rescued.
Mduduzi Ndlovu, 40, also died while trapped inside the building. He was stationed at Joburg Central Fire Station.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba and MMC for community safety Michael Sun met with the families of the deceased before they identified the bodies.
The three men’s helmets were displayed at the station with burning candles placed next to them in their honour.
The families were too distraught to speak to the media.
Makhura said the injured firefighters were heartbroken to have lost colleagues in the fire.
The firefighters have been hailed as heroes. “It is a very difficult job,” said Makhura. “We pay tribute to their dedication and commitment.”
He said the government wanted to ensure the surrounding buildings were cleared of people.
“An investigation is currently under way to establish the cause of the fire.”
Sun said it was no secret that Joburg had a history of a shortage of fire engines. “Firefighters battled three fires in the city on (Wednesday).”
He added that the city was facing an infrastructure backlog.
“We are hoping that in the next week or two, we will be able to advertise for the appointment of a supplier for the new fire engines. The City of Joburg will do whatever we can to ensure our buildings and residents are kept safe,” Sun said.
He said the city had acquired seven new fire engines, but still needed 22 more.