Fire destroys Westlake homes

Neighbours and good Samaritans rallied together to help 30 people in Westlake who were affected by two fires in two weeks.

Anthea Thebus of the Women of Westlake (WOW) outreach organisation said the Westlake United Church Trust (WUCT) were sorting and distributing donations for the victims of the eight shacks destroyed in a fire two weeks ago when a second fire razed six shacks and damaged a house on Thursday September 29.

No one had been injured in the fires but the families lost most of their possessions. The reasons for both fires are undetermined, Ms Thebus said, adding that they spread quickly because the shacks are clustered closely together in the backyards of houses.

“There are too many people living in the village,” she said.

“The village wasn’t designed for the amount of people living here. Some of the bungalows are so close together there’s hardly even place to walk.”

WOW donated a container to one of the family’s affected. The container had been donated to WOW for their counselling programme but Ms Thebus said: “The families are more important.”

Simphiwe Masale and his family were among those affected by the second fire.

Mr Masale was overcome with emotion when Ms Thebus told him that WOW would give their container to him. This was the second time in five years that his family had been devastated by a fire, Mr Masale said.

He was at work at Reddam School when he received a call to say that his home was burning.

“We don’t know what really happened,” he said. “They just called us at about 10 in the morning and said ‘I think there’s something happening at your house.”

He rushed home and met one of his neighbours’ children at the scene of the fire. The boy was sobbing on the pavement. “He had gone to the shop and when he came back a few minutes later, everything was gone.”

Kind neighbours had rushed into the blaze to salvage as much of the families’ possessions as possible. “Everyone were helping us. It was amazing. The first thing they saved was the marimbas,” he said. Mr Masale is part of a marimba band which teaches children in the area to play and performs mostly for free at Westlake community events. Theo Layne the spokesperson for the City’s fire and rescue department said there had been four fire incidents in Westlake in the past month, one of which was a brush fire. However, this is not statistically “significant” he said adding that in many areas there are sometimes brief spikes in fires.

“There are many areas where we have multiple fires in an area,” he said. “Going back as far a June, Westlake doesn’t stand out in a very significant way. Westlake is not that significant in term of structural fires.”