Arson suspected after fire at Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral

A fire that broke out in the basement of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town in the early hours of Sunday is thought to be the work of arsonists.

The dean of the cathedral Reverend Michael Weeder declared the fire was an “act of arson”.

Speaking to local media, Weeder said: “It appears that a lit piece of cotton or gauze was thrown through the small, barred window near the steps leading up to the cathedral’s Wale Street entrance. Someone was spotted running away from the cathedral.

“The cloister area door also had to be broken open as at one stage the firefighters thought the fire was actually inside the cathedral. A police docket has been opened and an investigation is in progress.”

He continued: “I received an early morning WhatsApp note followed by a phone call from one of our cathedral wardens, Catherine de Jong, that there has been a fire in the basement of the Wale Street section of the cathedral.

“Franklin James, the cathedral administrator, after being alerted by CCID, got there just after 2am. He was there with the fire brigade.”

Initial assessments after the fire have determined there was no discernible damage done.

Jermaine Carelse, a spokesperson for City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue, said an emergency call regarding smoke coming from the basement of the St. Georges Cathedral was received at 01:52am. He said: “As per the officer on scene, the person who needed to open the church had to come from Pinelands to open the doors. Eventually, permission was given to break one of the steel bars to gain access to the basement where the rubbish was burning.”

Carelse added that the fire was extinguished at 03:54.

Investigations into the arson remain ongoing.

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