Polokwane Municipality’s Fire Services is investigating the circumstances that led to the total destruction of Gome China Shop and a part of NJ Fresh Produce and Butchery last Thursday evening.
Allegations that the fire hydrants in Excelsior Street were to contain the fire fuelled beliefs that the fire could have been contained at an early stage, limiting damage to the owners of the premises as well as the shop owners.
To compound the matter, a source that was involved with the initial investigation on the premises claimed that the valves supplying water to the automatic sprinkler system inside the building were also closed. “If the system worked as it should, it is likely that the fire could have been stopped before major damage resulted,” the source said.
The cause of the fire was unknown at time of going to press, although, another source that was on the scene just after the fire started, said that he was informed that welding work was in progress before the fire started.
It is believed that thousands of Rand worth of goods were destroyed in the fire which reportedly started at a shop allegedly rented by a Chinese national trading in various items. The shop was reportedly completely destroyed and other shops sustained partial damage.
Owners of other shops in the building, emergency workers and bystanders braved the dangers by carrying expensive items such as computers and portraits from shops.
Water tankers were deployed to augment water supply from the hydrants in Hospital Street. “We had to provide additional water because water pressure in the whole city is very low and impacts on the effectiveness of fire hydrants,” another source explained.
Haccum Hough, the owner of an adjacent vacant fish and tackle store, indicated that everyone assisted by carrying expensive and valuable items from the shops to avoid it being destroyed in the fire. Hough said that he recently moved the items of his shop elsewhere and none of his stock was in danger.
Polokwane Police Spokesperson Lesiba Ramoshaba indicated that he is aware of the fire but that there is no case registered yet. “A case will only be registered once foul play is expected,” he said.
Communications and Marketing Manager of Polokwane Municipality, Matshidiso Mothapo confirmed that the matter was being investigated and that comment would be provided when more information was available.
Neither the owner of the building nor the shop keeper would comment, save to confirm that there was a fire and it was learnt that claims have lodged with the insurers involved.