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Almond hull fire goes nuts
An almond hull fire called in at 3:41pm yesterday kept some Sunraysia Group brigades up most of the night.
Incident: Carina West non-structure fire
Date: 10 October
Brigades: Merbein, Red Cliffs, Robinvale, Mildura, Nangiloc, Ouyen, Irymple, Boundary Bend, Wemen, Carwarp, Annuello, Sunraysia Group
Four piles up to 10 metres high and 50 metres long were resting about 100 metres from the processing area of the $30 million cracking plant.
Fibrous almond hulls are the outer covering of almonds but do not include the hard shell. The by-product becomes stock feed.
“This was a case of spontaneous combustion,” says Robinvale captain Colin Egan. “We’ve been out to incidents there before but this was by far the biggest. Usually these piles only smoulder but yesterday we had a hot westerly wind and the fire spread in a matter of minutes from one pile to another. The piles are very hard to extinguish because they retain so much heat. They burn even when they’re wet.
“We tried to knock the flame down and prevent further spread but it escaped the compound and burning embers caused about 300 truck tyres nearby to catch alight.”
The conveyor system which moves the hulls to the piles felt the heat but the business is well set up for the fire risk with in-house firefighting capacity. They used their heavy earthmoving equipment to pull one pile apart and douse it while CFA continued to work on the other piles.
Operations Officer John Breaks was on site until about 10:30pm.
“They had onsite water but we also set up a good relay system,” says John. “The Robinvale pumper acted as a boost pump to the Robinvale Big Fill and Ouyen pumper and that was then distributed to the tankers. They surrounded the fire and then it was a static firefight.
“We called three more tankers in at 6:45pm to give the initial crews a break and Sunraysia Group sent out relief crews at 11pm.”
SES provided lighting once night fell and Victoria Police offered excellent support, assessing whether road closures were necessary. Food was organised by Robinvale brigade.
“Operationally, it was a very good job,” says Colin.
Headline disclaimer: We are aware that, in fact, an almond is not a true nut. :)