An acute shortage of fire engines in the developing border town of Plumtree, in Matabeleland South province, is increasingly putting residents' lives in danger.
(PLUMTREE)—An acute shortage of fire engines in the developing border town of Plumtree, in Matabeleland South province, is increasingly putting residents' lives in danger.
People helplessly watched as their shops, businesses, and life savings turned to ashes yesterday (Sunday) when an inferno—whose source could not be established razed into several buildings located at Zinini Complex at the town’s business centre.
When “unarmed” firefighters came to douse the ravaging fires that had spread to several shops, using fire hydrants installed at the town offices—opposite the burning complex, most shops were already in ashes as residents watched with hands akimbo while some, instead of extinguishing the fire, casually took images of the incident and shared them on social media.
Instead of dousing the fire, some residents just folded their hands while others took images/Image by Citizen Reporters
Plumtree town boss Davies Dumezweni Luthe also came to witness the incident and told bemused onlookers that the local authority’s single fire engine had gone for service in Bulawayo.
Ironically, last month the local authority posted images of a brand-new looking firefighter on its web pages and made residents believe that it was disaster-ready.
File image: Plumtree Town Council owns a single fire engine/Image by Facebook/Plumtree Town Council
“It is regrettable and unfortunate, to say the least, that a local authority like Plumtree Town Council has no disaster management or mitigation plan,” Thomas Sithole, the director of Plumtree Development Trust, a local community organisation pushing for the development of Plumtree, charged.
Sithole said the local authority should guard against dicing with people’s lives and prioritise citizen safety and security.
“Disasters like the one in question have been prevalent of late and any local authority found wanting in the event disaster strikes ought to ask itself serious questions regards prioritising citizen security and property safety ” he advised.
“Any modern and progressive local authority or municipality should have a disaster management or mitigation in place and failure to have one is the abdication of responsibility and dereliction of duty,” Sithole added.
The town’s two residents’ associations, Plumtree Residents and Development Association (PRADA) and Plumtree Combined Residents Association (PCRADA) also separately condemned the failure of the local authority to effectively deal with yesterday’s fire incident.
The resident's group said it was regrettable that the local authority was failing to address important issues such as disasters when residents were, in fact, paying for those services.
“It is regrettable that residents are paying for fire and ambulance services yet these are not being delivered,” of PRADA chairperson Jefias Ncube charged.
“We would like to categorically urge our Council to improve these services as a matter of urgency to avoid unnecessary loss of property by residents,” Ncube added.
PCRADA chairperson Richard Khumalo took a swipe at the local authority and accused it of not sufficiently informing residents about the decision to take the fire engine for service out of Plumtree town when the fault could have been attended to by local garages.
“…what made things worse yesterday is the unavailability of a fire engine which the town clerk (Luthe) claimed was being serviced in Bulawayo.”
“Before taking the fire engine for service, the Council should have informed residents so that they are ready with alternative measures should a fire like this one break out,” Khumalo fumed.
“We feel that the local authority erred by taking the fire engine out of (Plumtree) town when it could have been fixed here,” argued Khumalo who expressed sorrow for businesses which lost property in the inferno.
Although efforts to obtain an official report of the actual damage caused by the fire were fruitless until the time of publication, unconfirmed reports indicate that the value of property lost—including cash which was burnt down to ashes in the inferno could amount to US$ 20 000.
An undisclosed sum of money which was burnt to ashes during the Plumtreeinferno yesterday/Image by WhatsApp/Citizen Reporters
While investigation to ascertain the cause of the blaze is still unknown, some residents who witnessed the incident claimed that the inferno could have been aggravated by fuel which is illegally sold in one of the motor spare shops which was reportedly the first to catch fire.
Plumtree is home to several black market fuel dealers who smuggle cheap gasoline from neighbouring Botswana to sell it for a cheaper price in Zimbabwe. Some of these black market fuel stalls are reportedly run by unscrupulous members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police who use their positions to evade the law.
Since fire safety is an extremely important and life concerning matter, residents whose local authorities are not well-equipped with fire fighters are often advised to invest in conventional fire extinguishers which they can use as an alternative should a fire break out in their business premises or homes.