The school hostel of the historic Dr Blok Secondary School in Heidedal, Bloemfontein, was almost completely gutted by a fire that broke out in the living quarters of the housemaster, Nathan du Plessis, this afternoon.
If it wasn’t for the quick response of the Mangaung Fire Department, the whole hostel could have burnt to the ground. That is according to community members who were first on the scene when the fire broke out at around 18:30.
The fire department managed to contain the fire at its source, preventing it from spreading to the rest of the hostel. Although there were flare ups in the ceiling of the learners’ quarters, no considerable damage was caused.
A notably distraught Du Plessis told Bloemfontein Courant on the scene that his first concern was with the safety of his family and that of the hostel learners.
“I have lost everything in the fire. All my personal belongings have been destroyed in the blaze. I am only left with the clothes on my back. But I am not too concerned about earthly possessions. My family is safe and all the hostel learners are accounted for,” said Du Plessis.
Although Du Plessis could not confirm it, a policeman on scene told Bloemfontein Courant that they suspect that the fire was caused by a television set that exploded.
A teacher at Dr. Blok, who also lives in the hostel, said he was preparing to attend a church service in the school hall when he became aware of the fire.
“With bible in hand I ran to the learners’ quarters to warn them of the approaching danger and to help them to safety. I told them to grab their belongings and run to safety as fast as they could. Fortunately the fire didn’t reached their rooms before everyone was out.”
Although nobody suffered any injuries, several learners were treated on the scene for shock by paramedics. Seven learners were taken to the Pelonomi Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.
Learners told Bloemfontein Courant on the scene that they were never this scared before.
“It was the scariest experience I have ever had since coming this hostel. We just grabbed what we could get, threw it out of the windows, an ran for dear life. I was also extremely worried about my friends. I am just so relieved everyone is okay,” said a grade 11 learner.
When Bloemfontein Courant left the scene at around 21:00, the fire department was still battling to get the smouldering fire in roof of the learners’ quarters under control.
“We are going to be busy far into the night. We don’t want to leave without being sure that the fire is completely extinguished,” said one of the fire fighters on the scene. – Pieter Delport