#JoburgFire: Victims honoured ...as City holds memorial service
It was a sorrowful occasion outside the Bank of Lisbon building as mourners gathered to remember fallen firefighters who died in last week’s fire at the Lisbon Building in the Joburg CBD.
Simphiwe Moropane, 28, Mduduzi Ndlovu, 40, and Khathutshelo Muedi, 37 were all killed while battling a blaze at the building - which houses the departments of Health, Human Settlements as well as Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Eight others were hospitalised with various degrees of injuries and burns while at least 13 officials from the provincial department of health were hospitalised and were treated for smoke inhalation
A total of 1115 employees were safely evacuated from the building.
A group of mourners gathered outside the building to lay wreaths and flowers for the slain firefighters.
They were led in prayer and song before being addressed by the Gauteng Health Department HOD Mkhululi Lukhele, who said the ceremony was a way to “cleanse themselves”.
The ceremony was followed by a memorial service at the Ellis Park stadium.
City of johannesburg Mayor Cllr Herman Mashaba, in his speech said, “firefighters are a special brotherhood, the bonds of which are formed by the
omnipresence of danger - and Simphiwe, Khathutsheli and Mduduzi were beloved members of that brotherhood.
“But nothing exemplifies their greatness as citizens more than their ultimate sacrifice. The tragic events of last week should remind us of the incredible bravery of firefighters everywhere.
When there’s a fire anywhere in this City, our firefighters reply: “Send me.”
“When the call came that the Bank
of Lisbon building had caught fire and that the innocent lives of employees of various provincial government departments were at risk, the men and women of the EMS did not hesitate.
“And on September 5, when the call came again, Firefighters Moropane, Muedi and Ndlovu did not waver.
“They answered the call of duty, no doubt with the lives of others top of mind.
“Perhaps they were concerned for their own too.
“As they sped from their station to the Johannesburg CBD, they followed the same treacherous trail that countless others had followed in the years before.
“As they finally arrived on the scene of the fire and caught a glimpse of the deadly blaze, they must have realised that there was no turning back.
“They jumped in, as they had rehearsed many times, and began the task of engaging with the worst horror any fire fighter could imagine.
“Tragically, circumstances, some of which they simply should not have had to deal with, conspired to make their rescue efforts hell.
“They lost their lives unnecessarily,” he said.
Ellis Park was filled to capacity as firefighters joined the emergency medical services band in song to pay tribute to their fallen comrades. Some of the firefighters wore T-shirts with the words “RIP to our heroes” printed on them.
Member of the mayoral committee for public safety Michael Sun who remained at the scene of the fire last week until every firefighter was rescued from the building, was among some of the dignitaries who addressed mourners during the course of the service.
“A Joburg firefighter who was one the first people at the scene of last week’s deadly fire in the city centre described how he tried in vain to save three of his colleagues.
Mduduzi Ndlovu and Khathutshelo Muedi died on the 23rd floor of the Bank of Lisbon building when were got trapped by the raging flames.
“I’m hurting... my heart is broken but I have to continue with life.”
Unions have said they had raised concerns about safety issues at the building, prior to Wednesday’s fire.
Officials, residents and firefighters who fought the blaze with those who died, gathered at Bank of Lisbon building for a wreath laying ceremony for the three fallen firefighters.
Family members honour their loved ones during the wreath-laying ceremony at the Lisbon Building. Picture Moses Moyo