The families of Simphiwe Moropane, Mduduzi Ndlovu and Khathutshelo Muedi who died while battling the blaze at the Bank of Lisbon building in the Joburg CBD.

Johannesburg - The Star newspaper hosted an event to pay tribute the three firefighters who died while trying to extinguish the fire at the Bank of Lisbon Building in the Joburg CBD.

The newspaper, which is located next to the building that housed three government departments where the men died, paid a special tribute to fallen heroes and their families on Thursday.

Simphiwe Moropane, Mduduzi Ndlovu and Khathutshelo Muedi had rushed to the building after a fire broke out on the 23rd floor but unfortunately died after being trapped inside.

On Thursday, The Star's editor Japhet Ncube said staff at his publication shared the families' pain.

"When this tragedy happened many of us were in this building. It’s something that you don’t expect to see. I was in my office working and a colleague came in and said, 'Hey come outside, the building next door is on fire'. When I got there some of our colleagues had already witnessed the death of one of the firefighters. It was something tragic.

"When something like this happens just on your doorstep, it touched us. We followed the story until the end. But we thought we can’t just do the story and end there. We said, 'let us try to find a way to honour brave fighters who saved the lives of may people' which is why we are here this morning."

Besides the families of the firefighters, Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, MMC for Public Safety, Michael Sun, Fire Chief Arthur Mqwa, members of Emergency Services and the Johannesburg Metro Police were also in attendance.

Mashaba said he was in the Free State when the fire broke out and could not leave until the following day. According to Mashaba he rushed straight to the building on his return to the city and was shocked to find that it was still burning. 

It has since emerged that the building was non-compliant and was unfit for occupation.

Mashaba said the fire had been an accident waiting to happen.

"This tragic incident is a clear sign of what happens when there is a breakdown of the rule of law. There are things in life that I accept to be accidents but some I accept as things that were bound to happen.

"In this case, where we lost three of our colleagues...is it an accident? Yes, it is an accident but it is an accident which was bound to happen when you allow buildings to deteriorate to this level. It is very sad."

Mashaba promised to rebuild Joburg as an honour to Moropane, Ndlovu and Muedi who died in a building that had been found not to be fit for human habitation. 

After the incident, The Star cartoonist Bethuel Mangena did a cartoon on the incident, depicting a firefighter kneeling down next to a burning building, tears running down his face.

Mangena said the drawing was inspired by the fact that the late firefighters believed in prayer.

“When I looked into the building, I didn’t know what to do to express how I feel about the whole situation. I remember I did a couple of sketches. I did a research about firefighters and one thing that touched me was that firefighters pray. That is what inspired me,’ he said.

The Star gave each family, as well as the mayor, a copy of the framed artwork.

Fhumulani Muedi said her husband Khathutshelo had been her pillar of strength. She said The Star's event was something her family would treasure.

“I never thought that one day we would be honoured like this. It is going to be a reminder to my girls,” she said.

@SthembisoMedia