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Hazelwood fire - update from Incident Controller
Update from John Haynes Incident Controller.
Good afternoon everyone,
Today is a special day for emergency services across Australia. National Red Balloon Day honours and thanks our brave and courageous fire fighters. Please reflect on this day and be encouraged to continue the good work.
We’ve faced a challenging week in the mine – a grass fire started on Tuesday afternoon that also extended the hard fought gains in the mine. It’s something that we can plan for, to a certain extent, but can still really test crews. A quick response from fire fighters and excellent support and control from local resources and the team saw the fire contained within hours. The protection of assets at the mine was front of mind. Though the fire came within 200 metres of the power station, crews were able to make a significant save on Tuesday.
On peak days we’re seeing an average of 200 plus crew on site. We have reduced the size of the fire by more than 50% and we’re gaining good ground. The focus for the remainder of this rotation is to maintain the integrity of the mine and the batters – particularly the northern batter. It’s a balance between fire fighting efforts and sound judgement about the safety of our fire crew and being aware of what the mine structure can and can’t withstand.
We have fire fighting strategies that are carefully considered with ongoing consultation with the people who know this mine and on-site engineers who understand its geology.
Staff morale both on and off the fire ground is challenging at the moment. Fatigue and frustration sets in when you think you’ve made progress and a day of bad weather can seem to undo a lot of hard work. This is natural in a campaign fire such as Hazelwood and my message is to keep faith in the great work you’re doing. CFA Chief Euan Ferguson was over the mine site on Thursday and astounded at the reduction in the fire compared to his last flight over the mine.
On Thursday 27th a visit and briefing from the Deputy Minister Peter Ryan reinforced the message that people have complete faith in the job we’re doing.
We have continued health monitoring of our fire fighters and continue to test water quality regularly in the mine. We are being more organised in a supervision strategy with the use of CAFS, Aviation Fire Trucks and aerial appliances to get greater efficiency in the mine. This will only improve our performance to bring the fire to an earlier conclusion.
We will be making use of the great fire fighting equipment we have available.
Crane monitors from Loy Yang and Yallourn have been requested. They will take some of the pressure and reliance off fire fighters and attack the fire from a greater height. Aircraft tenders and crew from Tullamarine are also on their way. It’s also about strength in numbers. We are sourcing more people in operations, resourcing and administrative roles. This will strengthen and refresh teams and allow staff to be well rested before their next rotation.
We have a window of opportunity over the next 72 hours to break the back of this fire. We have the resources and skills to achieve it and the whole team are all committed to making this happen. Thanks for your efforts so far.
Incident Controller, Hazelwood
28 February 2014
Last Updated: 10 December 2015