In a suspected case of arson, Zimbabwe’s largest timber producer, Border Timbers, was gutted by fire on Wednesday, reducing the multi-million-dollar factory full of treated poles ready for export to ashes.
Although there has not been an official statement on how the fire started and the extent of the damage, NewsDay understands the factory was reportedly housing treated poles ready for transporting to Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.
An official at the company who refused to be named told NewsDay the raging fire was started by a nearby farmer who was burning dry maize stalks in the afternoon but had failed to contain it.
“Someone was preparing her field just outside our premises and she failed to control the fire, which ended up on our site. There was no proper fireguard and we failed to put out the fire.
“The story could have been different if we had had a proper fireguard, it was just an oversight on our part,” said the official.
The fire was fuelled by highly inflammable chemicals in the factory which subsequently set the whole premises alight.
Efforts to put out the fire were fruitless and by evening, the whole factory had been gutted.
When a news crew visited the site at around 6pm on Wednesday, scores of onlookers were helplessly watching the inferno engulfing the complex.
Firefighters from Mutare City Council and Border Timbers were busy trying to extinguish the flames but they failed to salvage anything from the factory.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from company officials on the value of property lost were fruitless.
The tragedy came hot on the heels of the visit by Environmental Management Agency personnel last Friday who advised the company to prepare proper fireguards to avoid unnecessary loss of property and threat to human lives.