AFB Waterkloof fire “an accident”


No evidence of foul play or sabotage was discovered by SA Air Force (SAAF) investigators following a fire at the bulk fuel installation at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof on 23 January.

Base commander Brigadier General ET Mokoena this week briefed Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD), allaying fears of sabotage when he informed the committee “the preliminary investigation confirmed the fire was an accident”.

A slide in his presentation has it that “a component failure in the pipe system caused a fuel leak that was ignited by a spark from the pump wiring”.

“The start of the fire is captured on video, which further indicates there was no sabotage on the fuel system.”

The fire now comes under the scrutiny of a SAAF board of inquiry (BOI) which, according to Mokoena’s presentation, has six objectives – one is to advise “on its recommendations on prevention measures”.

On the way forward and to prevent another fire, a certificate of essentiality request has been generated to ensure expedited process for repairs of the infrastructure, according to the presentation. Fire suppression equipment will be installed; frequency of maintenance increased; inspections will be more frequent and cameras will be installed that will be monitored day and night.

In the interim, measures are in place to limit the effect of any possible fire damage to base operations. This means AFB Waterkloof personnel can support own operations undertaken by 21, 28, 41 and 44 squadrons and handle visiting aircraft.

The one-star general told the PCDMV reaction by base personnel to the fire was “swift” and it was extinguished in less than an hour.

“The swift action prevented more than 240 000 litres of fuel catching fire that would have led to an explosion,” according to the presentation, which adds the speedy actions of air force personnel at the Centurion base saved it and neighbouring communities. Suburbs in close proximity to the base are Lyttelton and Pierre van Ryneveld.