With the wounds of the Knysna fires still raw, Sedgefield has faced two more blazes in less than a week, with a total of 31 homes being destroyed and an estimated 100 or more people losing most of their worldly belongings.
The first fire ravaged through Smutsville’s Beverley Hills in the early hours of Friday 8 September. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but seven informal homes were destroyed. The cause is, as yet, unknown.
The following Thursday, just before 3am, another started. This time in the area known as ‘Slange Park’ on the Eastern side of Smutsville. A high density area, packed with informal structures less than a metre apart, was quickly engulfed in the fast-moving inferno.
There’s no doubt people were sleeping lightly, as miraculously no serious injuries have been reported.
One victim, Vuyisile Pauli, said he was fast asleep when his girlfriend Zowa Bevu fortunately heard the crackling flames. She immediately woke him and they both rushed to the window. The house four doors down from them was already in flames so they grabbed what they could and rushed outside.
“We went to help, but the flames were just too hot, and we had to get away,” Pauli said later.
Asked if he knew anything about the cause, he said that he had spoken to the man who had been sleeping in the first house that had burned. “There’s no proof, but from what he saw when he woke up, he suspects someone set it alight,” Pauli suggested.
The residents were grateful that the fire brigade arrived to tackle the blaze and prevent it spreading further, but it was just too late for the 24 homes that had been razed to the ground.
We contacted the Municipality for feedback regarding the fires and the councillor for that ward, Levael Davis, who is also the Mayoral Committee Member for Technical Services, said that he had been devastated to hear about the fires and that his heart goes out to those who had lost so much.
As far as support for the victims goes, he responded as follows: “Although the fire victims were offered temporary accommodation at the Sedgefield Community Hall, they preferred to stay with friends and family. A contractor is currently on the Beverley Hills site assisting residents with rebuilding their structures.
“Currently building material is being delivered and people in this community have agreed to rebuild their destroyed homes themselves. The municipality has also provided the affected with clothing.
“A big thank you to Ward 1 Committee Members for coordinating the assistance needed by the victims and also for going the extra mile. I also would like to extend my gratitude to Rebuild Eden Sedgefield for providing food and to all other NGOs that assisted.
“Thank you to the Sedgefield Community at large for once again standing together, supporting and assisting those affected by this tragedy.”