Thirty minutes. That is all it took for a Victorian house in High Street in the Malay Quarter of Woodstock to burn the belongings of Merle Christians.
At 6.25pm on Monday September 24, a plume of black smoke belched into a sapphire blue sky. Too big to be a braai fire neighbours were ignited into action as they called for the City’s Fire and Rescue services. Some watched in awe as flames spewed from widows and a neighbour from nearby Duke Street grabbed a hose and attempted to dowse flames. Others entered the wooden shack in the front garden to salvage whatever they could and pile items onto the pavement.
The City’s Metro Police were soon on the scene with fire services arriving about 20 minutes later and struggling to gain access to the fire on narrow roads blocked by vehicles.
According to neighbours, Ms Christians has lived in the house for over 40 years. She shared the house with her two sons, one of them, Shaun was treated for smoke inhalation by medical services. Family members were living in the wooden shack which miraculously was saved from the flames.
Asked what she thought had started the fire she said, “Does it matter when everything I have is gone.”
This is the second house in High Street to have a fire this year. The first was over the Easter weekend when a gas bottle ignited in the garden of the neighbouring house during a Muslim burial. And in April an eight-month-old baby girl was burnt beyond recognition in a wendy house in Pine Road after she had been left alone (“Devastated”, Tatler April 5).
Fire and rescue services at the scene could not ascertain the cause of the fire.