Back in history: Two homes lost in flames
21 March, 2023, 7:30 pm
According to a report in The Fiji Times on February 3, 1983, two Lautoka families were left homeless in a fire which destroyed a building in the city. Nothing was saved as the blaze had spread rapidly through the wooden partitions, flooring, and ceiling of the concrete house.
The fire began from a small wick-type kerosene stove which had accidentally tipped over and burst into flames. The flames had caught on fast to the wooden boards. The affected families later called for a ban on the brand of kerosene stove they were using, saying it was responsible for numerous domestic fires in the country.
Lautoka’s chief fire officer Keith McReady said the fire brigade received a call from a city council staff member who was near the scene. “It took us only four minutes to reach the scene but by that time the whole building was fully ablaze from corner to corner,” Mr McReady said.
The house was owned by Mohammed Hanif of Vakabuli and rented to two tenants. The major part of the building was rented by a Lautoka tailoring store owned by Ram Kuver who lived there with his wife, Phul Kumari, and two children.
A smaller part was rented by soap factory worker Yankaiya, who occupied the place with his wife Latchmi. The fire began from the Kuver kitchen when Ms Kumari was shifting the stove to the sink after cooking.
She normally used a gas stove, but that morning she found the gas had run out and so she decided to cook on the kerosene stove. She said the stove rolled over as she put it on the sink and flames shot up inflicting small burns on her arms and neck.
Mrs Kumari said she thought she could put the fire out and called for help but by the time help arrived the fire had spread to the bedroom, then to the sitting room and rapidly took hold of the entire structure.
They lost all their belongings except the clothes they were wearing. After the fire, they moved to a relative’s house in the city where other relatives had gone to comfort them. Mr Yankaiya, who rented a room in the building said he lost all furniture, beddings, clothes, and other belongings worth more than $2000.
He had lived in the building for four months and was also seeking temporary living arrangements. Meanwhile, Mr McReady said it took the firemen 20 minutes to bring the blaze under control.
He urged people to call the brigade promptly when a fire began and said that late reporting meant the fire had the chance to spread, making it difficult to control. Mr McReady said the Nasoki St area had good water pressure which helped in the firefighting.
A close relative of the Kuvers said the wick-type kerosene stove should be banned because it was prone to creating fires.