Fire destroys SAAF hangar in Pretoria
An unexplained fire on Saturday, 10 August 2019, in 8 Hangar at Air Force Base (AFB) Swartkop, home to the South African Air Force (SAAF) Museum, was brought under control and extinguished without serious damage except to the building itself. The hangar was part of the Imperial Gift that saw the establishment of the SAAF in the early 1920s. Along with other buildings on the base it was classified a heritage structure and, according to SAAF Corporate Staff Services, is “a setback to the SAAF and the history of military aviation around the world”.
“Since 2012, SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang, has initiated a programme to preserve and promote our air force history, which includes former TBVC states and the armed wings of former liberation movements in relation to the corresponding political, social and economic dispensation of the country under the theme ‘embracing our collective heritage’.
“A fundamental element in nation building and cultivating a cohesive society is reconfiguration of the heritage landscape to ensure it reflects the diversity and the incredible efforts of the unity of our society,” a SAAF statement said.
The hangar caught fire at around 5h00 on 10 August.
No injuries were sustained by personnel and no aircraft or historical items were lost as the historic hangar was used as general storage for airfield maintenance equipment, with the hangar itself sustaining extensive structural damage.
AFB Swartkop fire services and Tshwane Metro emergency services extinguished the fire. Base Commander Colonel Trish Schoeman used social media to say “nobody burned the hangar down on purpose” and a board of inquiry was convened to investigate. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
City of Tshwane spokesperson, Charles Mabaso, says the SANDF attacked the fire from the eastern side of the hangar (sector 1) and were in command of the scene. The City of Tshwane Emergency Services Department (CoT ESD) attacked the fire from western side of the hangar (Sector 2). It took about an hour for the team about an hour to extinguish the blaze and commence with cooling and spot fire extinguishing operations.
A quad bike and a compactor that were in the proximity of the hanger were affected by the fire, while a truck and some vehicles that parked in the proximity of the hanger were saved from the fire.
The hangar suffered about 70 percent structural damage and 50 percent of the contents were completely burned down.
He said that the water main ring on the southern side of the building could not supply water through the hydrants on the south side and the hangar doors jammed delaying entry for internal fire fighting.
Mabaso added that the response crews included four Aaport tenders belonging to SANDF, backed up by a light mobile command unit with two personnel and a type II engine pumper with with personnel from CoT ESD.
A fire safety officer from CoT has been assigned to conduct a fire cause determination.
Established in April 1921 as the then fledgling SAAF’s first base, Swartkop is today home to the SAAF Museum, the SAAF Museum historic flight and 17 Squadron, operating Agusta A109 and Oryx helicopters.
Early indications are the fire damaged, corrugated iron and steel building will be replaced by “a new modern structure, embracing the concept of old to new”. At least one military aviation enthusiast has already asked if the new hangar will be in service by February next year when the SAAF marks its centenary.
The SAAF Museum is due to hold its annual air show on Saturday 7 September, and indications are the fire will not affect the show.
Source: Defence Web