Several motorists in Marondera were left counting their losses after their vehicles were destroyed in an inferno at Top Gear Panel Beaters, one of the garages in Marondera town’s industrial sites, on Thursday night.

The vehicles were awaiting service and repairs and were parked inside the huge building when the fire broke out.

Marondera fire brigade could not attend to the fire as its single fire tender was away for service, and while Harare was called for help, by the time the fire engine arrived from the city the garage and the cars within it had been destroyed.

Mashonaland East police deputy spokesperson Assistant Inspector Misheck Denhere said the cause of the fire was yet to be established, as investigations progressed. 

Police could not give the media the exact number of vehicles destroyed, however, sources close to investigations said they were more than 15.

One of the residents of Marondera, Mr Ralph Chimanikire, said lack of equipment at the department of fire and ambulance for Marondera Municipality was a cause of concern.

“We are pained by this tragedy which has affected this young entrepreneur who was working here,” he said. 

“I am one of his clients. The unfortunate part is they could not get help to extinguish this fire. It is very unfortunate.

“Something has to be done by Marondera Municipality so that they become pro-active and react to issues like this one. We are so worried; a lot of vehicles have been destroyed. If only assistance had come in time, some vehicles were going to be saved.” 

Another resident called on Marondera Municipality to have a functional fire and ambulance department which can assist in times of disasters.

“Imagine the council failing to provide assistance to this tragedy. What if the building was housing people? They could have all perished,” he said. “We call upon the council to ensure this department is fully equipped.”

A witness, Ms Cecilia Chiwara, who lives near the garage, said she rushed to the council’s fire brigade offices and was told that they did not have equipment to assist.

“I first saw some smoke in the building and I immediately called the owner of this garage and told him about the fire,” she said. “I then rushed to the fire and ambulance site which is about 100 metres from the garage, and they told me that they did not have any vehicle to use. 

“I then called Harare’s fire department and they responded and by the time they got here, the fire had already destroyed all the vehicles in the building.”

In a statement following the fire incident, Marondera Municipality public relations officer Mr Kudakwashe Tapfumaneyi said they regretted the damage caused, adding that during the incident, their tender vehicle had already gone for service, and they had to seek assistance from Harare.

“The council fire tender was out on routine service and could not be used to respond to the accident,” he said. “Council enlisted the assistance of Harare City emergency services who managed to attend to the accident. Council is liaising with the police and other authorities to try to determine the cause of the fire.”

Mr Tapfumaneyi said details of the cause of the fire will be released once investigations were concluded.

He said Marondera Municipality was expecting to receive a new fire tender from the new fleet recently commissioned by President Mnangagwa.

Marondera municipality has one fire tender vehicle.

state media