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17 July 2011

Cop braves fire to rescue woman, dog


Image: Colonel Johan Vorster breaks into Charmaine Smit's burning Kraaifontein house to rescue the mother of five.
Protected only by the fabric of his police uniform, an officer hacked at the burglar bars of a burning house, walked through the inferno and rescued a mother of five.

A 35-year-old Zimbabwean man and his five-year-old son died in the fire, while the child’s mother suffered burns and is also in hospital.

Two more Zimbabweans escaped through the house’s back window, with one, a woman, able to save her 18-month-old son.

Colonel Johan Vorster used an axe to remove the bars from 45-year-old Charmaine Smit’s window before entering her Kraaifontein home.

He carried out Smit’s limp body after finding her on the floor in a back room. He also rescued her dog from under a bed.

Vorster said, “All I had on was my police uniform. There were flames everywhere – I could feel them around my feet.”

The Kraaifontein-based officer, who has 35 years of police service, arrived at the scene of the fire after receiving the call while on crime patrol with the Metro police.

“I am very privileged to have been there and that I could save somebody because that is why I became a policeman,” he said, adding that the raging fire had prevented him from searching the entire house for more people.

Vorster also applauded the emergency units and the Metro police on duty for working cohesively to remove windows and security doors.

Both Smit and her dog were treated for smoke inhalation. Smit is still in hospital, while the dog has recovered fully.

Smit, whose children were not home, shared her Voortrekker Road home with six Zimbabweans.

Smit’s neighbour, Vella Jordaan, said: “Charmaine has a soft heart, she always has a place for anyone to sleep.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown. Kraaifontein police have opened an inquest docket.

- Weekend Argus