The fire that broke out at the Biesiesvlei Waste Tyre Storage Depot in Litchtenburg, North West Province, has been successfully contained by firefighters from the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality. The blaze erupted on Thursday, 20th July 2023, after a veld fire was exacerbated by strong winds, causing it to spread rapidly over several kilometers and eventually reaching the depot at approximately 13:55.
Officials from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment’s Waste Management Bureau have been on-site since the incident occurred, closely monitoring the situation and ensuring all necessary measures are taken to extinguish the fire and prevent further damage.
Fortunately, there have been no reported injuries or property damages as a result of the fire spreading from the depot. The quick response of the firefighting team and the implementation of fire breaks contributed significantly to containing the blaze, which was fully under control by midnight.
The Biesiesvlei Waste Tyre Storage Depot, which covers an area of 30,000 square meters on a farm in Biesiesvlei, has been leased by the Waste Management Bureau since November 1, 2019. The depot is currently operated by a third-party company contracted by the Bureau.
The incident has brought attention to the safety of the depot and the potential risks it poses to the surrounding properties. In response to complaints from the public, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment ordered an investigation of the depot in May 2023. The investigation led to several interventions aimed at decanting the depot and reducing potential hazards. These interventions include:
Temporary Cessation of New Tyre Deliveries: No new tyres have been received at the site since April 25, 2023.
Workforce Hiring and Vegetation Clearance: Nine casual workers were hired to restack the stockpiles of tyres and clear excess vegetation, enhancing safety measures at the depot.
Introduction of a Mobile Baler: On June 4, 2023, a mobile baler was brought to the depot to bale loose passenger tyres, creating more space and minimizing potential fire hazards.
Supplying Tyres to Processors: The site has been targeted to supply loads of tyres to processors, including the local cement kilns. This move aimed to reduce the number of tyres stored at the depot.
The implementation of these interventions has proven effective in emptying the depot and facilitating the firefighters’ efforts to contain the blaze on-site. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment is continuing its efforts to create additional and wider fire breaks, ensuring that the fire remains contained, and the remaining tyres pose no further safety risks.
In addition to these immediate measures, the Waste Management Bureau is proactively seeking a permanent solution to address the potential hazards posed by the current waste tyre storage depot. Discussions are underway with the cement industry to explore the possibility of increasing the volume of tyres used as fuel stock. This strategic collaboration aims to reduce the stockpile of tyres at the depot and mitigate potential fire risks.
Furthermore, the Waste Management Bureau is exploring the development of waste tyre depots on the cement kilns’ mining land, located away from residential communities. This move will not only enhance safety but also help manage tyre waste more efficiently.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment assures communities that every effort is being made to ensure their safety and well-being. An announcement regarding the collaboration with the cement industry and the establishment of waste tyre depots on mining land is expected within the next two months.
The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of proper waste management and proactive measures to prevent and address potential hazards. As the situation develops, the Waste Management Bureau and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment will remain committed to safeguarding the environment and the communities they serve.