Van Coller Primary School pupils were met by a blaze last week Monday when an administration block caught fire at their institution of learning which resulted in the little scholars being sent home.
Principal Edward Valashiya, who arrived at the scene around 5am, said he was contacted by security guards and had alerted them to contact the fire fighters to rush to the school. “We waited for about 45 minutes until they initially arrived. They tried to extinguish the fire, but there was extensive damage.”
Valashiya said the truck had run out of water while the fire fighters were on duty and had to leave to fill up the truck before returning to the scene. “There were documents and files inside but old documents were directly affected by the fire. No danger occurred at the principal’s office, the deputy principal’s, head of department or the staff room.”
He said pupils would be given the rest of the week off, indicating that he would have to discuss with staff and begin to establish the cost of the items lost. With regards to gas cylinders found inside the building, Valashiya said there was a spectre of stealing in their vicinity which forced them to keep the items in the administration block. The gas cylinders were reportedly used to assist in preparing food for pupils as part of the schools nutrition programme.
Department of education assistant director Madoda Ndembe, who was at the scene, said the department would liaise with the school to work on a way forward.
Police captain Lariane Jonker said it was alleged the fire had emanated from a two burner stove that was used to prepare food for the pupils. “The personnel managed to extinguish the fire. An inquiry was opened by the station relating to this matter,” said Jonker.
“We are residents of this ward with children at the school. Safety is crucial. All schools should have fire hydrants. We have a problem with municipal facilities and transportation when it comes to service delivery. There are fires experienced in other parts of the community. There is only one truck. The municipality needs to have connection points where fire fighters can extract water. We appeal to the municipality to look into these issues. There are people who volunteer their trucks to extinguish fires when they break out, but we do not see those trucks here today,” said resident Bulelani Qowa.
Another resident, Lindikaya Dumani, added that fire fighters had no proper protective clothing, putting them at greater risk.
Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the school had not complied to the fire service act and had failed to place gas cylinders in a confined space which was the main challenge. “There were 4, 14 kg gas cylinders in the kitchen where the fire started and this caused serious damage as there was a lot of fire. The fire incident was reported and municipal services were able to quickly respond. The truck was full of water but it ran out before the fire was extinguished. There is no provision of refilling water in the school as there is no fire hydrant in the premises. In the vicinity of the school, there is also no fire hydrant and municipal fire fighters had to drive back to the station to refill the truck.” He concluded by adding that municipal fire fighters had the required protective gear.