The devastating Johannesburg fire that claimed the lives of three firefighters has created concern for the state of buildings in the CBD. The subsequent discovery that many buildings in the vicinity were not properly fireproofed, or met fire safety regulations, is of great concern. Cape Town Mayco member, JP Smith, is not taking any chances with the same happening in Cape Town and carried out a walkthrough of a building in the city’s CBD to check if it was up to code.

“I was bitterly disappointed at the utter disregard for fire safety when I accompanied the City’s Fire Life Safety Inspectorate on a follow-up visit to a building in the Central Business District this afternoon,” Smith said on Tuesday afternoon.

During the walkthrough, the Fire Life Safety Inspectorate issued the owner of the building a notice to vacate because of the poor state of the building.

The building was in contravention of:

– Lack of firefighting equipment on two floors

– Non-compliant emergency staircase/s as these are obstructed by rubble, chipped steps, non-functioning lights, no handrails, exposed electrical wires and the presence of sand on all levels

– Faulty fire detection system.

– No fire rating of doors

– Emergency evacuation systems, emergency lighting, emergency power and homing of elevators have not been tested in the presence of the Fire Service to ensure that they are fully functional

“The abatement notice will only be revoked once the building owner complies with all of the defects identified,” Smith said.

“Our follow up today found that the building is still occupied, in direct contravention of the notice, effectively putting the lives of those occupying the structure at risk,” he said. “Our Fire and Rescue Service is now seeking legal advice on the way forward. This could include forcibly evacuating the building.”

Smith added that he was shocked by the actions of the building owner, especially in light of the Johannesburg fire incident.

A blaze erupted from the 23rd floor of the Bank of Lisbon Building in Johannesburg’s CBD. The impact of the inferno was so severe that other floors of the building were affected as well, and it is suspected that the fire was fuelled by paper stuffed into the air ducts of the building.

Three firefighters died trying to douse the fire.

“In the wake of these incidents, there have been a number of questions about building safety in Cape Town. From a Fire and Rescue Service perspective, the City’s Fire and Life Safety Inspectorate conducts as many inspections relating to buildings and hazardous installations as our resources allow,” Smith said. “We simply do not have the resources to inspect each and every building proactively, so we encourage building owners but also tenants – whether residential or business – to familiarise themselves with the Community Fire Safety By-law so that they can conduct checks of fire safety equipment and whether their building is compliant.”

“Not all building owners appear willing to do the right thing, so we also encourage tenants to log complaints or concerns about fire safety via the City’s 107 Public Emergency Communication Centre for follow up. Between June 2017 and July 2018, officers issued 1 281 written notices for contraventions of the Community Fire Safety By-Law and two Section 56 notices to appear in court.”

Requests for inspections can be directed to the Fire and Rescue Service.

Picture: Supplied/City of Cape Town

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.