SOUTH AFRICA: 83 military vehicles were destroyed in a fire during a fire prevention exercise at the Wallmansthal depot, north of Pretoria, on 13 September 2017. An unexpected wind directed the flame of the firebreak procedure in the direction of the vehicles‚ according to defence force spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi. “While the unit’s fire rescue team was busy with the firebreak procedure there was an unanticipated change of wind that caused the fire to take a different direction,” Mgobozi said. “Then the fire started. I can’t confirm how long it took for all the vehicles to catch fire.” The fire broke out despite repeated warnings that the grass surrounding the more than 2 000 vehicles was too long and posed a danger. Mgobozi said 83 vehicles, mainly trucks, were damaged and one was destroyed completely. Emergency fire services from Wonderboom were called to assist as the blaze got out of control. According to Mgobozi‚ the vehicles were unused and kept for spare parts. “They were not used or going to be used in the near future. The base used them for parts. Though they were disposal vehicles‚ some had useful and usable parts. They assisted with repairs‚” he added.
The defence force said that the loss of the vehicles will not affect its operations in any way. According to Mgobozi it will not be possible to determine the value of the damage before an investigation is completed. At an average market value of R80 000 for an old South African military truck, the damage could amount to at least R6,7 million. “A board of inquiry has been instituted and it will produce a report on the cause of the fire and any loss it caused. We should have results in 30 days‚” Mgobozi said. He reported that no one has been suspended in connection with the incident.