Family member, Bianca Clasen 28, speaks of the tragedy. Video: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

Kalkfontein fire: 'I heard them cry, but I couldn’t come any closer'

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jun 3, 2020

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Cape Town - Fifty-nine people have died in house fires this year, including the latest in which four family members  died in Kalkfontein in Kuils River early on Tuesday.

The fire quickly engulfed the wendy house in Elizabeth Street, burning it to ashes, at around 3am.

The victims were Nikita de Villiers, 25, Jerome Duimpies, 39, and their children Jerovia, 9, and Jade, 1.

A distraught Thelma Hendricks, 45, mother of Nikita, said luckily another 6-year-old child of the couple was sleeping with her when the fire broke out.

She said the heat of the fire shattered the glass and blew open the windows of the wendy house, which were tightly shut due to the cold weather.

“The inferno burnt down the corrugated-iron roof and wooden sides of the house.”

“I heard them cry, but I couldn’t come any closer because of the fire and the smoke,” Hendricks said.

The incident happened while neighbours were asleep in a nearby house, but woke up at the sound of shattering glass.

They realised it was a  fire and shouted to neighbours and the community for help.

The fire quickly engulfed the wendy house in Elizabeth Street, burning it to ashes before anyone from the neighbourhood became aware of it at around 3am. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency
A neighbour seen looking on at the scene where the fire raged. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency

The City’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said the blaze started in the early hours.

Carelse said a man, woman and two girls were trapped in the informal structure when the City’s Fire and Rescue Services arrived on the scene.

“They had been alerted to the fire in Elizabeth Street at 3.10am.”

He said despite the valiant efforts of fire crews to contain the blaze to a single structure, the young family could not be saved.

Carelse said more than 50 people had died because of fires in the City of Cape Town this year (from January to June 2), which included 23 men, 16 women, 11 boys, eight girls and an unidentified person.

Carelse said the fire in Kuils River was extinguished at 3.55am and the scene was handed over to the police’s forensics department to investigate the cause of the incident.

Stats of people died due to fire this year and last year.

Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk said a death inquest case had been registered.

“The circumstances surrounding the fire are being investigated,” Van Wyk said.

The cause of fire was unknown at this stage.

Stellenbosch University civil engineering department Professor Richard Walls said fires developed fast that even if a fire truck was ready-and-waiting at a station near to an informal settlement, it would not reach the fire before a home was destroyed.

“In case of emergency, bucket brigades can help to extinguish or reduce the spread of fires, but this is often hampered by the lack of a sufficiently reliable water supply,” Walls said.

Featured image: Distraught relatives at the scene where four members of a family were killed in a devastating fire in Kalkfontein, Kuils River. Picture: Brendan Magaar African News Agency (ANA)


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Cape Argus

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