THE Ongwediva Town Lodge and the adjacent Hotel Destiny were gutted by fire late on Saturday afternoon.
No casualties were reported, but the fire caused extensive damage to both hospitality establishments.
The fire was allegedly caused by a spark from a braai place in the lodge where schoolchildren were holding a private party.
Parents were still dropping off their children for the party when the fire broke out.
By the time firefighters and the police's emergency rescue unit brought the fire under control, extensive damage was already done.
The lodge was completely destroyed, but a few items such as beds, books, tables and chairs were salvaged and heaped on to the street.
The manager of the lodge, only identified as Emilia, could not comment as she was suffering from speech loss due to shock, and the police advised that she be taken to hospital for counselling.
However, the damage to Hotel Destiny was limited to the buildings adjacent to the lodge.
"We are devastated, but on the other hand thankful that the damage was minimised by the speedy intervention of employees, local residents and the firefighters. The fire did not spread to the other buildings," said Letticia Shuuya, who spoke for Gideon Hamukwaya, co-owner of Hotel Destiny. She said no one was injured, except those who sustained minor cuts and bruises from falling utensils and broken glasses while they were dragging valuable items to safety. "We are still in shock, but we are also thankful that the blaze was limited to one section of the hotel," said Tuwilika Haipinge, a Hotel Destiny employee.
The police officer on duty, chief inspector Jeremiah Kuduva, confirmed that the blaze was caused by a spark from a braai chimney in the lodge where teachers and pupils from The Integrity School were preparing to hold a party.
"Employees and the teachers tried to put the fire down using buckets of water, but soon realised the futility of the exercise as the fire turned into an inferno," he explained.
The full extent of the damage to both the lodge and the hotel is still to be ascertained.