Fire puts spotlight on shanty town’s woes

Firefighters battle the Pine Road blaze, while residents look on.

Residents of a shanty settlement who lost their homes in the Pine Road fire are hoping to find safer housing soon.

The fire on Wednesday, February 13 destroyed 12 shacks and left more than 35 people without shelter (“Woodstock burns again less than a week after Holy Cross blaze,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, February 14)

Elize Booysen, who lost most of her possessions, said coals from a drum brazier hadn’t been properly extinguished and had started the fire.

This is the second time in a year the settlement has burnt.

Last year a baby died when a fire gutted two shacks (“Devastated,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, April 5, 2018)

Rabia Anderson, one of the victims of the latest fire, said she had lived in Pine Road for 25 years and now hoped to move to a temporary housing site in Pickwick Street.

Community leader Quinton Moos said the people of Pine Road were supposed to have been moved to Pickwick Street already, but it had not happened.

Ward councillor Dave Bryant said the fire victims had been housed in the Woodstock Town Hall last Wednesday.

“The fire has destroyed a lot of belongings, and City teams are working to assist with sleeping materials and other essential items in the interim.”

Mr Bryant said the Pine Road area was due to be developed as part of the first of the affordable housing projects for Woodstock.

“The residents of the Pine Road settlement are due to move into the Pickwick Street inner-city temporary relocation area this year. I would like to see this project rolled out as soon as possible, and I am hopeful that the Mayco member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, will be able to assist in expediting the process,” he said.

Loushade Booysen, 22, said he had seen many fires in the Pine Road area since 2010.

“Are there not enough examples for us to move?” he said.

Helen Rourke, from the De-
velopment Action Group, which is working with the City to arrange the transitional housing in Pickwick Street, said since the fire, they had met all the Pine Road families to keep them informed.

The fire victims had also received some support from the residents in the community and the City’s disaster management, she said.

The Pine Road fire happened at the same time as a blaze that swept through an Islamic school for girls, on the corner of Nelson and Pontac streets.

That was the second school fire in the area in less than a week: On February 7, the Holy Cross Primary School had three classrooms, a computer lab, the new library and the feeding-scheme kitchen destroyed by a fire (“Overwhelming support for gutted school,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, February 14).

The Tatler has asked the fire department whether there is a possible link between the two school fires, but we were still waiting for an answer to that question at the time this edition went to print.