EDITORIAL COMMENT: Glen View complex fires need solution

THE Glen View home industries complex once again went up in flames last week, resulting in the loss of property worth millions of dollars belonging to informal traders. Surely, it is time authorities think hard on what to do with this area, before a major catastrophe is witnessed.

The danger of such fires causing a major disaster becomes more pronounced considering the location of the complex.

There is a fuel service station right on the edges of the market, while houses surround the complex, both of which make the thought of a raging inferno all the more frightening.

What is particularly worrying is that this is the third time this year that the complex, which houses mainly furniture manufacturers, has been razed to the ground.

Yet no tangible measures have been taken to ensure that future fires are stopped before they inflict any major damage. While the Fre Brigade reacted swiftly this time around, its intervention was limited due to a shortage of water.

It is fortunate that the water ran out after the Fire Brigade had managed to ensure that the fire would not reach the filling station adjacent to the complex, which could have resulted in a more serious disaster.

In any case, the complex cannot continue to rely solely on the Fire Brigade, preventing such fires should be a priority.

It is unfathomable that the traders operating at the home industries have to fork out money to retool and source new supplies each time a fire breaks out at the complex, while the space barons who are supposedly in control of the complex continue to draw large sums of money form the traders, doing nothing to ensure that the complex is secure.

It is our view that the situation cannot and should not be allowed to continue without any remedial action. The era of “space barons” should end just as the axe is being wielded on land barons.

We also agree that the complex should be the sole responsibility of the Harare City Council so that there is an accounting authority that ensures it is well maintained.

One of the most glaring anomalies at the complex is the disregard for proper disposal of highly-flammable material, which can be set off by just a spark.

Yet, the complex is littered with a lot of flammable material such as sawdust, off-cuts, foam rubber, cotton and pieces of cloth.

These materials need to be properly stored and discarded to reduce the risk of fire spreading during an outbreak.

Responsible authorities should put in place bins or dumping areas which are then insulated to ensure that if the material catches fire it does not spread to other parts of the complex.

There is need to put in place proper structures that are built with fireproof materials. Ideally, the structures should be demarcated into cubicles that comprise a storeroom for raw materials and finished projects, a workshop and probably a showroom.

Each cubicle should be properly configured and partitioned, divided by fireproof walls and roofing material. In addition, the structures should have fire hydrants that would act as the first line of defence in the event of a fire.

While we appreciate that there are water shortages in Glen View, there is a stream that runs close to the complex, which makes it possible to harness water through the use of pumps that can then be switched on in the event of a fire.

This will ensure a first line of defence while the Fire Brigade is on its way.

Installing fire extinguishers, in our view, is a small price to pay than losing millions of dollars through fire.

The reconstruction of the complex is, therefore, an urgent process that needs to be done by a competent authority that will be held accountable.