A LOUD bang was heard from afar, sending the light-hearted scampering for cover.
In no time, hissing tongues of fire were seen protruding from the roof of one of Marondera’s biggest garages, TopGear Panel Beating, located in the town’s industrial site.
So huge was the ball of the fire that fuel attendants at the nearby Total Service Station had lost hope that their garage would be spared.
Equally traumatised were the security guards manning the nearby buildings as the fire threatened to spill over.
About 20 vehicles were reduced to ashes in the inferno which broke out on September 1 but whose source is yet to be ascertained by fire experts.
The garage, also located about a stone-throw away from the council’s fire brigade offices, was razed as their fire tender was grounded.
As people watched helplessly vehicles being burnt in the garage with no possible intervention from fire fighters, an apostolic sect leader and some followers offered a solution-prayer.
The sect leader knelt down close to the raging fire and started praying.
Other members of the sect who were on their way to an all-night vigil joined him in prayer.
Across the road, and upon realising that the fire had gone wild, a firefighter fled from the scene in a council vehicle, leaving the sect leader pleading for divine intervention.
“It was strange but we believe it is his prayers that saw other buildings being spared. There was a possibility that the fire would spread to the service station and other buildings but it did not. A firefighter even fled from the scene. We tried to refrain the sect leader, asking him to leave the scene but he refused. He knew what he was doing,”
said an eyewitness Martha Chikandiwa (36).
Chikandiwa, a security guard at one of the premises in the industrial area is still failing to come to terms with Madzibaba’s faith.
“If the fire had spilled to other buildings especially on the western side, a greater part of the industrial area was going to be razed down.
“It is a pity that more than 20 cars in that garage were reduced to ashes when the fire brigade offices are just opposite. To make matters worse, some of the firefighters fled from the scene. They knew people were angry,”
Firefighters were called from Harare, about 75km away and arrived after the damage had already been done.
In a statement after the tragic incident, the Municipality of Marondera confirmed that their fire tender vehicle was not available for use.
“The council fire tender was out on routine service and could not be used to respond to the accident. 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.”
Although the apostolic sect leader has not been seen in public since that day, he has gone down in the history of Marondera as the man who miraculously doused a raging inferno that could have reduced the town’s heavy industrial area to ashes.