A neighbourhood watch boss is being hailed as a hero after rescued an elderly man from a burning house in Monte Vista.
Glenwood Neighbourhood Watch chairman James Ellis spotted smoke as he was driving through the area shortly after 1.30pm on Tuesday, last week. At first, he thought it was a grass fire.
“Then I noticed it was coming from the house. I have driven past this house so many times over the last 15 years, and I have never seen anyone there.”
By the time he pulled up at 76 Montague Street to investigate, the house was well ablaze.
He saw the owner, Ernst van der Laan, 76, coming out the side of the house.
“I ripped the security gate off its hinges to see if anybody else was in the house.”
There was no one else in the house, but Mr Ellis said it was clear the fire had started in the lounge.
Then he noticed Mr Van der Laan had come back inside.
“I grabbed him and took him outside.”
Mr Ellis used the Telegram app to alert the City’s emergency radio dispatch in Goodwood.
“While waiting for the fire department to arrive, a neighbour came out and offered to help put out the fire.”
Mr Ellis was connecting the neighbour’s hosepipe to a tap, when he saw Mr Van der Laan venturing back into the burning house.
“At this point, the fire had reached the roof, and I went back into the house to get the man. I think he was trying to save some of his belongings.”
Mr Ellis brought Mr Van der Laan to safety for the second time.
“He was a bit stubborn. The fire spread quite rapidly, and I think the wind made it worse. There was nothing we could do to stop the fire as it had spread too far.”
Later, Mr Van der Laan told Mr Ellis he had fallen asleep after starting a fire in the lounge’s fireplace.
“When he woke up, he noticed the flames. One of the reasons, for the fire spreading so quickly was due to the many papers and books in the lounge that burnt so easily.”
Mr Ellis said the fire department responded swiftly and put out the fire while paramedics attended to Mr Van der Laan.
Mr Van der Laan told Northern News he had been living in the house since 1972.
“When I start a fire, I usually stay awake while it is burning, but on Tuesday I fell asleep. The noise of the fire woke me up.”
Although the roof of his home is badly damaged, Mr Van der Laan is still living there.
“I don’t see any point in leaving. I don’t believe in fencing off properties. I also don’t have any family in South Africa. My one daughter lives in France and the other one lives in Holland.
“I have to accept what happened because I cannot turn the clock back. I have a few friends who have experience in renovating and building houses so they are also helping me investigate various options,” he said.
Fire and rescue spokesman Theo Layne said two fire engines and one rescue vehicle had been dispatched to the house along with 12 firefighters.
“The entire property and its contents were severely damaged by the fire, heat, smoke and water. No injuries or fatalities were reported and the cause of the fire is unknown at this stage,” he said.