Dumpsite fire that smoked out Pietermaritzburg is finally out

Firefighters have finally extinguished the fire at the New England Road landfill site in Pietermaritzburg, which had engulfed the KwaZulu-Natal capital in thick clouds of toxic smoke since it flared up more than a week ago.

Msunduzi municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mfumbatha said the firewas extinguished by Tuesday afternoon by the firefighting teams, who had started battling the fire on July 21.

The local municipal firefighters were reinforced by teams from Durban and other parts of the province, as well as a team of 78 firefighters and 10 vehicles from Working on Fire, the environment affairs department’s fire fighting unit.

The N3 freeway had to be closed because of poor visibility caused by the dense clouds of smoke. 

The landfill was still closed on Wednesday, and was likely to remain so while the area is compacted to ensure that no flare-ups occur, Mfumbatha said.


On the weekend, Sihle Zikalala, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal, ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire. 

Mfumbatha said there was no clarity on how the blaze started because the investigation had not been concluded. 

A case of arson had, however, been laid with the police.

She said the municipality wanted to move the dumpsite, but would not be able to do so just yet. In the meantime, the city would focus on recycling initiatives to try to reduce waste.

Informal recyclers, who had been removed from the dump, will not be allowed to return until the problems at the landfill have been resolved, according to Mfumbatha.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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