Old Mutual has provided 10 diesel tank trailers to help fight fires devastating the heart of South Africa’s agricultural economy. Veldfires spread quickly during the dry winter months and cause major damage every year.

The trailers built by local Johannesburg business Trailers & Tankers are worth more than R300,000 and were towed from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein by Old Mutual Insure employees using their own 4×4 bakkies on Saturday, 14 November 2020.

These diesel trailers are also equipped with pumps, brand meters, aluminium nozzles, diesel filters, fire extinguishers and spare wheels, and were handed over to Agri Free State who will manage their distribution to strategically located points in the most fire-prone areas of the Free State.

Fires devastate food basket

Recent devastating fires in the Northern Cape and western Free State have highlighted the urgent need for easily accessible and strengthened fire-fighting equipment in rural areas. The recent fires destroyed over 100,000 hectares across 100 commercial farms as well as a currently unspecific number of smallholder operations. While satellite data is yet to confirm final numbers, initial estimates are that approximately 2,000 head of livestock have been lost and extensive worker accommodation and other strategic infrastructure destroyed.

One farm lost R900,000 in livestock and R3 million in assets alone. Once the financial impact on individual commercial and smallholder farmers is assessed this devastating blow to the heart of South Africa’s rural economy will be fully calculated. Fighting the fire over an extremely broad front meant that fire fighters regularly ran out of diesel. “By the time fire fighters returned to the blaze after driving to the closest refuelling station the fire had already done its damage,” said Antonia Oakes Head of Customer Experience and Responsible Business at Old Mutual Insure.

Engaging with Free State Agriculture, Old Mutual Insure learned that locating diesel tanks at centrally accessible infrastructure nodes throughout high-risk fire zones could, “significantly increase the ability of fire-fighting teams to manage blazes effectively – especially at onset before fires became unmanageable,” explained Oakes.

“This intervention reduces our own risk exposure in an economic segment, so critical to the growth and future of general prosperity in South Africa. Finally, the reduction of the burning of carbon-based materials is a key pillar of our commitment to slowing climate change through responsible environmental management,” concluded Oakes.