Durban — The City of Umhlathuze is expected to carry out extensive firefighting tactics on Monday to bring an end to runaway fires after a site handling wood-related materials caught alight on Saturday.
Umhlathuze Municipality spokesperson Bongani Gina said a fire was thought to have originated at a conveyor belt used for the storage of wood chips. The fire had already engulfed the chip stockpiles at NCT Company, adjacent to phosphates and phosphoric acid company Foskor.
Gina said a comprehensive investigation would be conducted to determine the cause of the fire.
On Monday, emergency services are expected to carry out aerial water bombing in addition to a helicopter releasing dry chemical products. Gina said the operation aimed to suffocate burning stockpiles to kill the flames.
The business is believed to be one of Richards Bay’s largest wood-chip exporters.
The city gave notice to the community and road users passing PCT and Foskor about the aerial operation that will be taking place at PCT Premises.
Gina said the city’s fire services promptly engaged in firefighting operations with assistance from various partners, including Mondi Fire Services, Transnet Fire Services, South 32, RBM and other private companies.
Gina said the weather conditions on Saturday posed significant challenges, with temperatures soaring to an estimated 39°C.
“The situation became increasingly complex as the wind speed intensified and shifted to a northerly direction, providing additional fuel to the fire.”
Fire and rescue teams were swiftly dispatched to various areas of Arboretum and brought the fires under control. Gina said there was no reported loss of property or lives.
“Our current focus remains on monitoring and addressing the ongoing fire at NCT, which is expected to require additional time, possibly even days, for complete containment.”
Evacuation measures were not deemed necessary, and there was no imminent risk to residential areas.
City of Umhlathuze mayor Xolani Ngwezi said the firefighters and the citizens of Richards Bay who rallied together formed an indomitable team to combat the uncontrollable blaze.
He said their collective efforts ensured that the fire had not encroached on residential areas.
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