(PICTURE: An early responder attempts to fight the blaze that destroyed four homes. Taken by Pearl Kimmel)

The sounds of sirens going up Makou Street is something that sends chills down most Sedgefielders’ spines because every local knows that with the wrong wind conditions a fire in the informal area could result in catastrophe.

On Monday evening, four families living in ‘Die Gaatjie’, just off Bitou Street, lost their homes and many of their possessions, as sometime between 8.30 and 9pm a blaze engulfed their informal wooden structures. The boom of gas bottles exploding echoed through Smutsville, and the terror-stricken cries of people scrambling to evacuate their homes were heard by folks living close to the terrible scene.

The fire was miraculously contained before it could spread further – this thanks to the quick reaction of residents and the swift arrival of fire trucks, as well as others who rushed to the scene to assist. Their combined efforts in stopping the spread of the blaze surely saved many lives, especially considering the warm weather conditions experienced on Monday.

Also miraculous was the fact that no injuries were reported.

Mike Hofhuis of COP, whose members were called to the scene to provide backup should the firefighters need assistance, said it certainly was a job well done by the Fire Department. Stopping the flames leaping the narrow gaps between the hundreds of homes clustered together had been of paramount importance in avoiding a major disaster.

The Smutsville Community Hall was opened to provide safe shelter for the fire victims, and various humanitarian groups are collecting goods to assist them to rebuild their lives.

Donations of household goods, clothes and food may be dropped at Masithandane. (044 343 2110)