Fungai Lupande and Magaret Matibiri
Eighteen vehicles worth thousands of dollars were yesterday burnt to shells by veld fire at a garage along Seke Road amid reports that Harare Fire Brigade officials who attended the scene watched helplessly allegedly because their fire tender did not have water.
The owner of the garage located at Ledco Missions Complex, Mr Moses Kashitigu, said he was yet to quantify the loss after most of his clients’ cars were destroyed.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) yesterday urged residents to make fireguards.
Mr Kashitigu said the fire brigade arrived when the first car was burning, but could not put out the blaze because they did not have water.
“The first fire brigade tender that came here had no water and they watched while the fire spread,” he said.
“Their backup fire tender is the one which came with water, but it was too late to save the situation.
“Most people had brought their cars for repair and I am devastated. The garage didn’t have insurance and I know that individuals have insurances, but I doubt if they had comprehensive insurance.
“This is a complete setback. At the moment I don’t know what I will do because this was my source of livelihood.
“Maybe if I relocate to another place I may be able to make a fresh start,” he said.
Mr Kashitigu said he shared the garage with Mr Malvern Mutwaro who was not present and his clients’ vehicles were also destroyed.
“I lost 12 cars and six of them are a complete write-off. The fire started after lunch and I suspect it was started by people who live on the banks of Mukuvisi River.”
He said they had fire guards, but something that looked like a tire exploded from the riverbank and landed on one of the vehicles, sparking the inferno.
“Some people who came to help took advantage of the situation and started stealing tools and spares and other accessories from the burning cars.”
The owner of the premises Mr Barbour Kativho said people tried to put out the fire using buckets with water while fire brigade officials watched.
“I suspect the fire was started by urban farmers who do their gardening on the Mukuvisi River bank,” he said.
“The people were probably clearing the land and due to strong winds the fire-guard became useless. This is a sad moment.”
City of Harare spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said the fire brigade was a professional entity and never attended a scene without water.
He said residents had negative perspective towards the institution.
“People have a negative perspective toward our fire brigade but their vehicles always attend to a scene with water. The water output they use is very high and their water sometimes don’t last long and they have to use the local fire hydrants.
“However, most of these hydrants are vandalised making it difficult for the fire brigade. We attend to not less than 15 veld fires every day and our fire brigade is professional.”
EMA spokesperson, Mr Steady Kangata said property owners in urban and rural setups should create proper fireguards, especially during this time of the year.
“The fireguards should be nine meters wide and if people share a boundary the nine meters should be on both sides. The fireguard should be around the property,’’ said Mr Kangata.