A brand-new firefighting truck is set to bring some peace of mind to the Vergelegen wine estate and its neighbours this summer.
The vehicle was ceremonially launched with a dousing of the estate’s famous sparkling MMV recently. The sturdy, fiery-red MAN TGM 18.240 4x4 vehicle replaces a veteran Mercedes fire truck that notched up sterling service for close to 40 years.
The old stalwart will remain on the farm, but be confined to use as an extra water reservoir for filling up other fire vehicles.
Eben Olderwagen, the estate’s environmental project manager, said hot, dry and windy summers have led to devastating wildfires in the Helderberg over recent years.
The most recent blaze was the devastating wildfire that broke out on the mountain slopes above Lourensford estate, destroying thousands of hectares of vegetation, gutting several homes and killing wildlife in June (“Raging wildfire contained”, DistrictMail & Helderberg Gazette, 15 June). Other blazes have also 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, Olderwagen added.
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 Anco Manufacturings, the company that built the truck, to learn about the vehicle’s features and its 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 a driver is always available should an inferno break out.
Vergelegen has reduced its own vulnerability to fire by clearing dense alien vegetation, enabling indigenous vegetation to flourish and reduce fire risk.
“Firefighting is a team effort and Vergelegen is committed to working with critical partners in the Western Cape wildfire programme,” said the estate’s managing director Wayne Coetzer.
“Our partners include Working on Fire, the City of Cape Town’s Fire Services, 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.”