Fire exposes landlord’s non-compliance of city by-laws

A fire in a shop on the road level in Bertha Mkhize Road revealed there was no proper fire escape in the building that is used for informal student accommodation.

AN oversight visit by eThekwini Municipality Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer, who is also the Chairperson of the Security and Emergency Services Committee, to a problem building in the City has raised concerns about the non-compliance of building owners to City by-laws which often compromises the safety of tenants.

Councillor Peer conducted a site visit to 85 Bertha Mkhize Road on 2 February after a fire had destroyed the building the previous night.

According to reports from the City’s Fire and Emergency Services Unit, the fire started at a cellphone shop on the ground floor of the building. Occupants from the second floor to the 13th floor were unable to escape as the fire escape had been sealed and converted into small trading areas.

ALSO READ: Stricter controls on student accommodation needed

The cause of the fire remains unclear, however, Councillor Peer was made aware of several serious contraventions in terms of fire regulations including that the building was not compliant in terms of section 2 of the municipality’s interim code relating to fire prevention and flammable liquids and substances.

“A thorough inspection and assessment conducted by our Fire and Emergency Services Unit paints a very bad picture of negligence on the part of the owner. At the moment the structure is being used as an informal student accommodation establishment constructed with flammable polystyrene partitioning. It is also shocking that the construction of these units was done without proper ridged fire rated walls which could lead to the collapse of the informal structures,” she said.

Peer said she was shocked to learn that the building had no dedicated emergency routes and was being utilised outside of the approved occupation classification. “If it wasn’t for our Fire and Emergency Services Unit that managed to get to the scene within five minutes and put out the blaze, people would have died,” she said.

She said the owner had been served with a one-month non-compliance notice for him to remedy the identified transgressions.

“As a municipality we want to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, but we want business people to conduct their business in line with municipal by-laws and not to put the lives of residents in danger,” she said.

Peer further warned that the municipality would deal decisively with building owners and landlords who do not comply with the relevant Standards and Building Regulations.


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