Fire-fighting force at Vergelegen

Issue 8 2022 Editor's Choice, Fire & Safety, Residential Estate (Industry)

Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West, and its neighbours, are set to enjoy greater peace of mind this summer, thanks to the delivery of a brand-new fire truck that was ceremoniously launched with a dousing of the estate’s sparkling MMV.

The MAN TGM 18.240 4x4 vehicle replaces a veteran Mercedes fire truck that has notched up sterling service for close to 40 years. This old stalwart will remain on the farm, but will be confined to use as an extra water reservoir for filling up other fire vehicles.

Eben Olderwagen, environmental project manager at Vergelegen, says that hot, dry, windy summers have led to devastating wildfires in the Helderberg area over recent years. Blazes have ravaged mountain slopes and other areas for days at a time, and firefighters have battled to control multiple flare-ups.

The new truck will be dedicated to firefighting activities and will not be assigned to daily farming operations, says Olderwagen. It could also be on standby during controlled burning activities, and as a safety feature at Vergelegen’s popular social events.

Staff from the estate, garden and vineyard departments, have attended a short course with the company that built the truck, ANCO Manufacturing, to learn about the truck’s features and their practical applications.

Moses Xelelo, who works in the wine cellar and lives at the farm, is the chief fire truck driver, but Vergelegen has ensured that more staff based on site can operate the vehicle too. This will ensure that a driver is always available should a blaze break out.

Vergelegen has reduced its own vulnerability to fire by clearing dense alien vegetation from 2200 hectares, enabling indigenous vegetation to flourish, and reducing fire risk.

“Firefighting is a team effort, and Vergelegen is committed to working with critical partners in the Western Cape wildfire programme,” says Vergelegen MD, Wayne Coetzer. “Our partners include Working on Fire, the City of Cape Town’s Fire Service, district municipality fire services, SANParks, CapeNature, volunteer firefighters and fire protection associations. We view our new fire truck as a valuable asset in this partnership.”

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