Firefighter Livhuwani Maumela's burnt hands. After two months in hospital, Maumela and his colleague Moleko Bereng were discharged from hospital where they had been since being injured while battling the deadly Bank of Lisbon building fire that killed three of their colleagues. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
Two firefighters whose hands were badly burnt during the deadly Joburg fire that claimed the lives of their three colleagues are eager to get back to work.

But this could take months as they still have to go for physiotherapy to ensure that their hands are fully functional.

Moleko Bereng and Livhuwani Maumela were discharged from Netcare Milpark Hospital in Parktown on Monday, more than two months after they were admitted with serious burn wounds.

“I can use my hands now. It is better than the time when I came in here after we were rescued from the burning building,” Maumela said.

The two were among dozens of firefighters who were dispatched to the Bank of Lisbon building in the Joburg CBD on September 5 after a fire broke out.

The building, which was later found to be only 21% compliant with the health and safety standards, housed three government departments - human settlements, health and co-operative governance and traditional affairs.

Firefighters Simphiwe Moropane, 28, Khathutshelo Muedi, 37, and Mduduzi Ndlovu, 40, lost their lives as they battled the blaze.

“I am looking forward to recovering so that I can use my hands fully. I cannot wait to get clearance from the professor who was treating us on when we’ll be ready to get back to work,” said Maumela, whose left hand was burnt.

Recalling the raging fire that burnt both his hands, Bereng said they got trapped in the building while trying to find other means to get water to extinguish the fire because fire hydrants were not operational.

“There was no water in the building. You cannot send a cop to a crime scene without a gun or with a gun without a bullet. He can’t win. Our bullet is water,” Bereng said.

Maumela said he got burnt while trying to protect his face from the fire.

“When we arrived on the 23rd floor, we saw a small fire and smoke. The fire was on the 24th floor and there were fighters there. The escape exit is a magnetic access control since it is an HOD’s office. No one can enter there, only the person with access control can.

“I tried calming the other guys down because they were panicking.”

Both firefighters said they were still struggling to deal with the deaths of their colleagues.

“As firefighters, we are like family. It is still difficult for us to deal with the loss. We are hoping to visit the families and the graves to pay our last respects. We are going to miss them. We must continue where they left off,” Maumela said.

Bereng said he had little hope about recovering after he was released from the intensive care unit.

“I was in pain and did not know whether I would be able to use my hands again. After some days, I saw that the medical treatment we were getting was going to help me get better,” he said.

They said they were looking forward to going home and spending time with their families.

Joburg MMC for public safety Michael Sun said investigations into the fire were still continuing.

“They (Bereng and Maumela) have been telling me that they are eager to get back to work. We are happy to have them back,” Sun said.