Fire destroys 41 000 tons of sugar at Komatipoort sugar mill in Mpumalanga
Forty-one thousand tons of sugar was destroyed when the sugar storage warehouse at the Komati Sugar Mill burned down on Tuesday morning, 5 October 2021. It is estimated that the fire started around 02h00am and was only brought under control 12 hours later. However, it flared up again and fire fighters have been battling since Sunday, 10 October 2021 to try and douse the flames. The fire departments of Nkomazi and Mbombela have been trying to control the blaze since it started flaring up again. Throughout the week, the blazing heat kept resurrecting it and the Lowveld and Escarpment Fire Protection Association (LEFPA) assisted with an operational plan to permanently extinguish it. The Leading Edge Aviation Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was contracted by LEFPA to drop thousands of litres of water onto the fire.
Since Sunday, the Black Hawk has dropped more than 400 loads onto the storage warehouse with one load consisting of 2 500 litres.
André Scheepers, the fire coordinator and manager of LEFPA and Frits Koekemoer of Nkomazi Security Solutions are ensuring that all operational plan procedures are being followed at the mill.
The original response included the fire department of the Nkomazi Local Municipality who responded to the fire on 5 October 2021, followed by the Mbombela Fire Department. “The fire spread from the warehouse through the conveyor belt but we stopped it from spreading to the of the factory,” said Gibson Sibambo, a senior personnel of the local fire department. The fire department left the factory at 14h00 on Tuesday as the fire was completely under control.
They successfully prevented the fire from spreading to the rest of the factory at around 05h00. The night shift employees were evacuated safely. The cause of the fire has not been identified yet but the investigation is still ongoing. There was no clear indication of the value of the sugar lost or the damaged equipment.
LEFPA Komati Mill update on 15 October 2021 stated, “The fire was finally declared extinguished at around 21h00 last night. Greg and his team kept on checking through the hours after and dealt with remaining embers and sporadic small flare-ups. The last of these were found in the early hours and the team is happy to report that the thermal scanners have revealed no remaining hotspots beyond the expected 40 degrees Celsius today.”
“The Mbombela and Nkomazi fire departments delivered sterling work alongside LEFPA, some totally committed farmers and the RCL team. The final day, with the technical assistance and efforts of Frits Koekemoer and Johan Muller of Nkomazi Security Solutions, ended in success.”
“One lucky tower team got a nice, cooling shower from the Blackhawk at the end of the day but they cheerfully resumed their efforts and stuck it out to the end. A mobile phone might have been the worst casualty judging by the frantic checking afterwards! Recaps will follow in due course.”
Stephen Heath, the corporate affairs director for RCL Foods, said “We are still in the early stages of the investigation but we can confirm that no one was harmed, as everyone was evacuated immediately”.
Sources: the Lowveld and Escarpment Fire Protection Association (LEFPA), The Lowvelder