A runaway fire swept through parts of the Wallmannsthal military base destroying 83 vehicles, the majority of which were Samil trucks said by the military to be “unusable and awaiting disposal”.
While not confirmed by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) the value of the trucks has been estimated at over R6 million.
The sprawling base, north of Pretoria, is home to one of the force’s largest vehicle parks and is also currently the temporary base for about 370 Toyota Landcruisers, bought in Australia. The vehicles are in the process of being modified for use as soft-skinned patrol vehicles in the national border protection tasking Operation Corona.
SANDF spokesman Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi confirmed to defenceWeb the new Landcruisers were not among the damaged or written-off vehicles.
He said damage assessment was currently underway and only once this was completed would a monetary value be known.
“A preliminary investigation established only one repaired vehicle was destroyed and an estimated 83 damaged.”
Mgobozi said firebreaks were burnt along the base perimeter fence each year to prevent runaway fires “breaching the perimeter”.
“The fire and rescue section was burning grass around the perimeter fence when the fire burnt out of control due to sudden changes in weather conditions,” he said.
News24 reported the fire which ran away from those who started it in the interests of base safety, spread so quickly extra firefighting assistance had to be called in from the nearby Hammanskraal fire station, a Tshwane metro unit.
Wallmannsthal was utilised as major integration base during the creation of the SA National Defence Force after democracy in 1994.
It is one of the SANDF’s major vehicle parks holding both serviceable and unserviceable vehicles and equipment numbering more than two thousand units in total. In addition to Casspirs, Buffels, Mambas and Samils, redundant equipment including field kitchens, towed water tankers, portable shower units and Sappers’ equipment such as graders, tractor/loader/backhoes and front-end loaders are stored at Wallmannsthal pending disposal.