Following the loss of three Johannesburg firefighters in a fire that engulfed the Provincial Health Department building in the inner city last week, the North Eastern Tribune reported late last week that the efforts to put out the blaze were hampered by a lack of sufficient water pressure in the building, which is an important safety requirement in a building of this size.

The fire is one of three that occurred in buildings in Eastleigh, Thaba Tshwane and the Johannesburg CBD at the beginning of September.

It is reported that several government officials who evacuated the building have referred to the unsafe conditions in the offices.

The North Eastern Tribune quotes Jacob Mamabolo, MEC for Infrastructure Development: “The building does not comply with occupational health and safety regulations. The building is allegedly owned by the Provincial Government Department of Infrastructure Development. We regard these matters very seriously, given that this fire has led to the tragic loss of life of the three brave firefighters.

“As government, we must set the standard by which we expect building owners in Johannesburg to comply, for the sake of the safety of those who live and work in these buildings,” Mamabolo was quoted.

Premier David Makhura is expected to probe the circumstances that led to the fire.

CEO of ASP Fire, Michael van Niekerk, notes that all buildings in South Africa need to comply with the requirements of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 1977 (Act No. 103 of 1977), Fire Protection, as set out in SANS 10400 Part T: 2011.

He adds that the fires have highlighted the need for rational design of performance-based fire-safety systems. A rational design is the performance-based design of fire safety and prevention mechanisms and strategies in a building in order to provide the same or better fire safety levels as prescribed in the National Building Regulations.

“Rational design takes into account the behaviour of a building during a fire, meaning the structure must be designed accordingly, thereby minimising any potentially devastating impact,” he comments.

According to Van Niekerk, the three main causes of fire are electrical, arson, and heating equipment.

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