The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Municipal Reporter
THE Bulawayo Fire Brigade has been caught in the eye of a storm over a fire call that occurred last year on Christmas Day with the owners of the Queens Park East property claiming that the emergency service provider took close to two hours to respond.
The fire brigade has on the other hand refuted the allegations claiming they took just five minutes to attend to the incident.
The matter came to light last Wednesday during a full council meeting held in the council chambers when the councillor of the area, who is also the city’s deputy mayor, Councillor Tinashe Kambarami brought it up for discussion raising concern that the fire brigade reportedly got lost and attended the incident without any water, leading to the entire property burning down.
“I was shocked to say the least because the fire station that attended the incident is North End which is just a stone’s throw away from Queens Park East, it thus did not make any sense at all for them to take almost two hours, let alone claim that they got lost.
“This issue should honestly be investigated on what really happened because the owners of the property further claim that the crew came without any water and were now asking neighbours to provide water for them to put out the fire. According to council minutes the Fire Brigade claims they took five minutes but I am talking as the area councillor and interviewed a number of people who all confirmed the account given by the property owners,” said Clr Kambarami.
He said the property owner was prepared to give evidence whenever requested to prove that the emergency service provider erred in its service provision endeavour.
According to the council Fire and Ambulance report detailing the incident, which occurred at Number Seven Upton Road, Queens Park East, the Fire Brigade claims that they received the fire call at 3am and were at the house at 3.05am.
“A six-roomed private residential house severely damaged by fire, two jets and one hose-reelwith breathing apparatus stage one used to extinguish the fire,” reads part of the minutes.
The suspected cause of fire is listed as being an electrical fault.
In a letter addressed to Deputy Mayor Kambarami, the 86-year-old homeowner, Mr Stephen Gezi, who is now staying with well-wishers, said there was a need for all the fire trucks to be installed with GPS systems and also have a map detailing the positioning of fire hydrants in the area.
“We called the fire brigade but they delayed in coming to our rescue. They delayed for more than an hour. They said they got lost. They went on to ask for water from my neighbours. Some of the officers were asking us where the fire hydrants were.
“All this delay and chaos caused the whole house and property to be completely destroyed. We were just watching helplessly while the raging fire destroyed all our property except for some pieces of cloth which we wrapped around ourselves as we ran out of the house. I would like the City Fathers to be vigilant in fire-fighting activities,” reads part of the letter.
Debating the same matter, Ward Four Councillor, Silas Chigora said while he could not defend the alleged negligent conduct of the fire service there was also need for residents to appreciate how the fire department operates.
“What happens is that when the fire tender leaves the station it will be having the water which is in their truck and relies on water bowsers to boost their water, in the event that all the bowsers are not available, they then have to search for fire hydrants within the area which might take time and in the worst case scenario they can find these hydrants damaged which complicates the whole process.
“It is therefore important for residents to strive to report fire incidents on time so as to ensure that the fire department is able to handle all these eventualities, I am honestly not blaming the affected property owners but just advising residents that whenever they have a fire breakout they immediately call the fire department,” said Clr Chigora.