Home News Four-year-old fire victim sought refuge under bed

Four-year-old fire victim sought refuge under bed

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The four-year-old girl who lost her life in a shanty fire in Chris Hani Park last week, sought refuge under her bed in a futile attempt to escape the flames that rapidly consumed her home.

The young family lost everything in a shanty fire in Chris Hani Park. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE FOUR-year-old girl who died during a shanty fire in Chris Hani Park, hid under her bed in an attempt to avoid the flames that engulfed her home last week.

Local non-governmental organisations rallied to assist the family, while a memorial service was held at the Bantu Hall yesterday.

A funeral service for four-year-old Lesego Luthanda Tshaka is scheduled for today.

The Galeshewe police are investigating the cause of the fire, which occurred on June 7 at around 10.40pm, leaving the family bereft of their loved one and all their belongings.

Neighbours said they were awoken by screams for help as Lesego’s eight-year-old sister struggled to free them from the blazing inferno.

They indicated that the area did not have any street lights.

“The landlord’s son kicked the door open. The eight-year-old girl screamed for him to save her baby sister, who had sought refuge under the bed. He was unable to rescue the four-year-old as the flames were too ferocious.”

Community members helped to put out the fire with buckets of water.

“The flames spread rapidly and had reached the roof by the time the fire brigade arrived. The Galeshewe training fire centre was closed and we had to wait for Sol Plaatje emergency services to drive from town. If the fire was put out sooner, the girl could have survived.”

They added that the two siblings had been inseparable.

“The eight-year-old girl walked with her sister to and from school every day and looked after her. They are usually cared for by their father, who does not live with them, or their grandparents when their mother has to work.”

Four-year-old Lesego Luthanda Tshaka perished in the blaze. Picture: Supplied

Thembesile Tshaka said he was devastated to inform his granddaughter that her sister had died.

“Lesego suffered severe burn wounds to her whole body. Her sister was traumatised and devastated. She is still receiving medical treatment in hospital for smoke inhalation and burn injuries,” said Thembesile.

He added that their mother worked night shifts and was at work at the time of the incident.

“They will stay with me if they cannot find alternative accommodation. We do not have a funeral policy because we did not expect to lose such a young child.”

Tebogo Kgwate, who does not live with the rest of the family, added that his eldest daughter had suffered burn wounds to her hand and body.

“They were renting the shanty at the back of the house for many years. Everything was lost in the fire including identity documents, furniture, clothing and electronic appliances,” said Kgwate.

A spokesperson for the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Babalwa Mzambo, said they would provide the family with blankets and food parcels.

She added that they would request Sol Plaatje Municipality to offer the family shelter, once the girl is discharged from hospital.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thabo Mothibi said the police had opened an inquest into the death.

“Our councillors spearheaded support efforts, drawing a number of stakeholders to support the family,” said Mothibi.

He indicated that emergency services had responded to the fire within 10 minutes.

“We received the call-out at 10.34pm and arrived on the scene at 10.43pm. Upon arrival, the shack was already on fire. We responded and extinguished the fire.”

As the city is experiencing sudden cold temperatures, many are lighting fires in cans in an effort to keep themselves warm.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Sergio Kock advised residents to ensure that fires are extinguished and heaters and electric blankets are switched off before going to bed.

“Never sleep with burning candles and refrain from using ‘umbolas’ inside houses. Smoke alarms should be installed and must be in a good working condition,” said Kock.

He advised against smoking in bed and encouraged smokers to ensure that cigarette butts were properly disposed of.

“Take extra care when cooking, especially with gas and open fires. Do not overload multi-plugs and wall sockets with heating appliances.

“Do not splash water on oil or grease that catches fire in your cooking pan as this spreads the fire. Rather, use a fire extinguisher.”

Kock encouraged residents to keep matches, lighters and other flammable liquids out of reach of children.

He stated that residents should only attempt to extinguish a fire when it is safe.

“It is better to leave it to professional firefighters who have the necessary training,” he said.

Extensive damage was caused during the fire. Picture: Soraya Crowie
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