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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Cause of fire probed in Tshwane switch gear room

Fire at decommissioned Pretoria power station doesn't impact property lease; cause under investigation, minor injuries reported.


A fire that broke out in a switch gear room of a decommissioned power station in Pretoria West over the weekend did not affect the lease of the property, according to Tshwane’s MMC of finance Jacqui Uys.

Uys said the energy task team was still working on the lease before it went out in the tender.

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City of Tshwane Emergency Services spokesperson deputy chief Thabo Mabaso said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

Room alight

Mabaso said firefighters arrived on the scene to find the switch gear room on fire on Friday night.

“The switch gear room had four switch components with oil that was burning intensely,” he said.

“The switch gear room roof collapsed and parts of the walls also collapsed because of the intense heat and an explosion that occurred.”

Mabaso said 10 firefighting vehicles and 26 firefighters were deployed to contain and subsequently extinguish the fire.

“One firefighter sustained minor injuries when a fire hose nozzle hit the face shield of her helmet.

“She was treated at Unitas Hospital and discharged,” he said.

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City of Tshwane spokesperson Lindela Masingo said because the power station is inoperative, it had no impact in terms of providing power to residents.

“The power station is under care and maintenance, awaiting the lease programme for an entity to invest in it,” he said.

Earlier this year, the city council passed the Rooiwal and Pretoria West power stations report to allow for a 40-year lease of the power stations.

‘Too little money for maintenance’

Councillor of the Republican Conference of Tshwane, Lex Middelburg, said there was a good reason why the city is being plagued by substation fires after 2016, when the coalition took power.

“Since 2017, the coalition’s first budget, spending on preventative maintenance on the electricity grid has decreased annually to its lowest levels of less than two percent of the capital value of the grid in the 2023-24 budget year,” he said.

“The money that was spent had been disproportionally channelled to existing upgrade projects of substations like Wapadrand and Mooikloof in the east of the city.”

Middelburg said the Pretoria West substation had still been using age-old oil spark-suppression technology in their switchgear, which is about 45 years old technology.

“The fact that the oil seems to have caught fire means the regular oil checks and changes had not been performed as per the manufacturer’s specifications, leading to this catastrophe,” he said.