Investigators were on Thursday sifting through the burned-out remains of the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court’s third floor to determine what had caused a fire that one report said had caused damage of R30-million.
Tshwane metro fire spokesperson Johan Pieterse said that it was too early to determine what had caused the Wednesday afternoon fire that resulted in the roof collapsing.
He said it was believed that the fire had started in an unused courtroom of the old building shortly before 2pm on Wednesday.
The new building, which is linked to the old building, was unaffected by the fire.
He said staff had initially tried to battle the blaze themselves using 10 to 15 fire extinguishers once they had managed to open the courtroom.
“But the fire had spread through the roof,” he said.
The Pretoria News on Thursday quoted chief magistrate Desmond Nair as saying that he estimated the damage at R30-million and believed the fire may have been caused by faulty electrics.
He said that the alarms had worked and that the evacuation had gone very smoothly.
Pieterse said the reason for believing that the fire had been caused by faulty electrics came about because the staff who had initially battled the blaze had reported seeing sparks coming from the roof of the disused court room.
He said the building was closed because it was unsafe to work in and firefighters were still on standby in case of any further flare ups.
Prosecutors, lawyers, accused people and family and friends were all packed into the Pretoria Central Police Station where criminal first appearances were taking place.
Prosecutors could be heard shouting case numbers and calling names while people whose cases had been called desperately attempted to make their way through the masses.
Civil matters were being handled at the old traffic court in Visagie Street.
The building was built in 1942. — Sapa