Un­known hero of Maties build­ing blaze

Ex­haust­ing bat­tle by fire­fight­ers as south-easter fans 3 fires

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - THANDANANI MHLANGA

A YOUNG man put his life on the line to res­cue a woman from a burn­ing Stel­len­bosch build­ing, al­low­ing her to climb down his body to safety.

The fire at Stel­len­bosch’s Wil­cocks build­ing in Van Ryn­eveld Street, part of Stel­len­bosch Uni­ver­sity, was just one of three blazes that broke out in greater Cape Town yes­ter­day.

A howl­ing south-easter fanned a moun­tain fire above Imizamo Yethu, but fire­fight­ers stopped the flames reach­ing any homes. And a paper fac­tory in Bel­lville South caught fire.

In Stel­len­bosch the Wil­cocks Build­ing, where some of the uni­ver­sity’s archives are stored, caught fire about 3pm.

Jeremy Coetzer, who works in the Old Main Build­ing over­look­ing the Wil­cocks, said he heard peo­ple shout­ing and his build­ing’s fire alarm went off.

He ran out­side. “There was such a lot of thick black smoke you couldn’t see what was hap­pen­ing. Ev­ery­body was run­ning away.”

When he re­alised there was no fire alarm go­ing off in the Wil­cocks build­ing he and a se­cu­rity guard ran in to raise the alarm.

Coetzer said they ran up the stairs to the third floor shout­ing: “There’s a fire!”

Then they found it hard to breathe and ran back out­side.

There he spot­ted his wife Fran­cisca and a group of stu­dents try­ing to per­suade a woman to jump from the third floor on to a du­vet they were hold­ing.

A young man ran up to the sec­ond floor and stood on the win­dow ledge be­low the woman, al­low­ing her to climb down his body to the sec­ond floor from where they both fled to safety.

“He was a very coura­geous young man,” said Coetzer. “He got her safely through the sec­ond-storey win­dow. Less than 10 min­utes af­ter that the third­floor room she’d been in was ablaze. No one could have got out of there alive then.”

Shortly af­ter­wards the po­lice and fire fight­ers ar­rived on the scene.

The iden­tity of the young man is not known.

Uni­ver­sity spokesman Mohamed Shaick said the ex­tent of the dam­age caused by the fire was un­known.

“We are plan­ning for al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion for the af­fected peo­ple as from Mon­day,” he said. By 7pm the fire was com­pletely doused but fire­fight­ers were still on the scene to en­sure the sit­u­a­tion re­mained con­tained.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day a fire broke out on the slopes of the moun­tain above Imizamo Yethu, in Hout Bay, and the strong south-easter meant that fire­fight­ers had to look sharp to pre­vent it reach­ing any of the homes.

He­li­copters helped douse the flames by bomb­ing the moun­tain­side with wa­ter.

Work­ing on Fire spokesman Eve­lyn Holtzhausen said the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s New­lands team was as­sist­ing a fire­fight­ing team from the Ta­ble Moun­tain Na­tional Park to fight the fire.

The co-or­di­nated ef­fort saw 80 fire­fight­ers bat­tling the flames. By late evening the fire was con­fined to the up­per slopes of the moun­tain, al­though it had not been doused.

Philip Prince, fire man­ager of Ta­ble Moun­tain Na­tional Park, last night said the fire had been more or less con­tained de­spite a strong wind. Winds above the moun­tain were blow­ing at 50-60km/h and it was hard to get he­li­copters to the top.

“With these winds any­thing can hap­pen,” said Prince, adding that most fire­fight­ers would stay on duty through­out the night to monitor the blaze.

Work­ing on Fire has ap­pealed to peo­ple to be “very care­ful” with open fires these hol­i­days.

“At the moment the veld is very dry and these high winds pro­vide ideal con­di­tions for run­away fires,” he said.

In Bel­lville South Fire and Res­cue’s Theo Layne said a fire in the Green Tis­sue fac- tory in Sacks Cir­cle broke out in the early af­ter­noon in the op­er­a­tions sec­tion of the build­ing. A large quan­tity of paper was de­stroyed in the process. Three fire en­gines and a wa­ter tank were dis­patched to the fac­tory. There were no in­juries.



WHOOSH: A fire­fighter strug­gles to close a fire hy­drant af­ter a pipe burst near the blaze which raged yes­ter­day on the moun­tain above Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay.


DRAMA: Stel­len­bosch Uni­ver­sity’s Wil­cocks Build­ing goes up in flames. The build­ing was the scene of a dra­matic res­cue yes­ter­day.


AFLAME: A heli­copter drops a load of wa­ter on the moun­tain­side fire above Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay.

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