Fire damages Fort Hare economics building

The economics building at University of Fort Hare’s Alice campus caught fire on Sunday.
Image: SUPPLIED

A fire that broke out at the University of Fort Hare in Alice has left a trail of damage in the economics building.

The building, which burnt around 12.15pm on Sunday, housed lecture halls for scores of students and lecturer offices. The top floor was completely gutted by the fire.

University spokesperson Tandi Mapukata confirmed the fire to the Dispatch.

She said the cause however was not known at the time of writing.

A lot of damage has been caused by the fire. Everyone is all over the show. A portion of the first floor is affected

“A lot of damage has been caused by the fire.

“Everyone is all over the show. A portion of the first floor is affected,” she said.

A video sent to the Dispatch shows blaze fire flame coming out of a portion of the top floor of the building.

SRC president Siphiwo Ngcenge said students and staff clubbed together to extinguish the fire.

“What is shocking is that the building was under renovations. It is an old building but it was still being used.

“Everyone came out to assist, the students, the vice-chancellor [Sakhela Buhlungu] and staff. We do not know the cause of it.

Ngcenge said almost 95% of students were not on campus.

“We are crossing fingers that it will not affect students that much even though loss will be there. Most work was done through online learning.

“The fire was seemingly from top down but we do not finer details of whether anyone was injured. Most damage is on the first floor,” Ngcenge.

Ngcenge said the building was the second one to burn in the campus. Protesting students burnt down a staff centre in 2017, he said.

“We used hosepipes to extinguish the fire. The campus has its fire station, that came in handy.

According to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu, who was on site with the Registrar, Njabulo Zuma, it took security officers, maintenance personnel and other staff members about two hours to put out the blaze. Fortunately, there was no one inside the building and no injuries were reported.

“Using fire hydrants, the staff on site were able to elevate themselves with hoisters that were left by Dewing Construction and managed to douse the fire. By the time firefighters from the Fort Beaufort Fire Department arrived, the blaze had already been put out.”

The building consisted of offices and lecture halls. The roof was completely engulfed by the fire and had caved-in. “The impact of this fire will be huge, fortunately, the impact of teaching and learning will be minimized as the majority of our lectures have been moved online during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the VC.

The fire broke at a time when the university was in the middle of engaging the Health and Safety Department on tightening safety measures on campus buildings. “Those talks will have to be to be accelerated,” said the VC.

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