City of Tshwane firefighters responded to the fire that broke out at SGB-Smit Power Matla at approximately 17:00 on Sunday, 7 March 2021.
A District Commander in the Fire and Rescue Operations Division saw a cloud of dark smoke in the direction of the Pretoria West industrial area while driving with her command aide from a house fire in West Park.
She ordered her aide to drive in the direction of the smoke to investigate. When they arrived at the gate of the factory on the corner of Buitekant and Carl Street, they discovered smoke and visible flames coming out of an industrial plant. She immediately ordered the dispatch of firefighting resources by radio to the Emergency Call Centre.
According to information provided on-site, it was established that a fire had broken out in one of the 90 kVA transformers. It was also established that there were various hazardous and flammable substances (transformer oil, kerosene, paint, liquefied petroleum gas, oxygen, acetenyl, etc) of various quantities in the factory.
Upon the arrival of the firefighting crews, sectors were established to initiate the fire attack on the south-western part of the building (to prevent the fire from spreading to the eastern and south-eastern parts of the building) and exposure protection of the northern parts of the building.
The northern part of the building has two 14 000-litre tanks of kerosene, two 33 000-litre tanks of transformer oil and a 30 000-litre trailer tanker. The south-eastern part of the building has a core cutting plant and a small transformer manufacturing plant, which were saved from the blaze. Several high-voltage transformers that were either completed or near completion and a control room in the main plant were destroyed by the fire.
Various shut-off valves providing the plant with kerosene and transformer oil were closed. The contents still in the 75-millimetre pipelines remained a concern during the firefighting operation, as well as the explosions that could be heard from inside the building.
The fire was contained at around 18:30. Firefighters continued with operations until after midnight when cooling off and the elimination of hotspots were completed.
The extent of the damage has not yet been quantified and the exact cause of the transformer catching fire remains a subject of investigation. Firefighting teams continue to monitor the plant for any possible flare-ups.