WATCH: Veld fire shuts OR Tambo runway, damages two planes
A source inside Acsa speculated that the origin of the fire could have been possible retribution for the awarding of a recent tender.
A veld fire engulfs the eastern side of OR Tambo International Airport on Monday. One runway was temporarily closed. Picture: Supplied
A massive veld fire covered much of Boksburg in a blanket of smoke on Monday morning, causing the temporary closure of one runway at OR Tambo International Airport and damage to at least two stationary aircraft.
A late video shared with The Citizen showed fire damage to some parked air frames and even though two aircraft in the video belong to defunct airlines, SA Express and Equatorial Congo Airlines, the damage to the airframes and possibly an engine seen in the video could amount to millions of rands.
Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) confirmed “two nonoperational aircraft parked at Denel were affected by the fire and no loss of life was reported”.
But a source inside Acsa claimed there may be more aircraft damaged, along with other assets. The company is expected to compile a report overnight in initial assessment.
An Acsa employee said fire break compliance in terms of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act would be top of the agenda.
Acsa’s official statement said the flames entered its property from an adjacent community and added that airport management would continue sharing updates. It also said that airport operations were not disrupted.
OR Tambo International is in the middle of Ekurhuleni councillor Simon Lapping’s ward.
“The billowing smoke was visible from the far western end of Kempton Park and created a thick layer of smog in large parts of Boksburg,” he said.
Lapping questioned the claim that the fire came from outside Acsa’s property.
“If this is true, the flames would have had to jump across a three-metre-wide dirt road to get to the airport and then make its way to a bank of wattle trees that were incinerated in the blaze.”
This is where Lapping speculated the fire was started.
Another source inside Acsa speculated that the origin of the fire could have been possible retribution for the awarding of a recent tender, that included grass cutting at the airport, but airport spokesperson Samukelo Khambule confirmed the company “was awarded the contract for a period of six months”.
The value of the contract works out to a daily rate of R21 857.92. Lapping said the tender “could have been an excellent example whereby local small entities could have bid for the business. The tender could have been broken up to benefit many locals.”
And while Acsa did not comment further on the tender, Lapping said he believed the dispute over the awarding of the tender is now heading to court.