News & Media

Hazelwood mine fire - update from the Incident Controller

By: Bob Barry

  11.00 AM 12 March, 2014

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Incident Controller Bob Barry
As we enter the fifth week of this complex fire fight, we are continuing to make good progress in the Hazelwood open cut mine.
At 11.00am on Monday 10 March, we declared the status of the Hazelwood mine fire ‘controlled’ thanks to the excellent work carried out by all firefighters, interstate personnel, mine workers and supporting agencies. We define ‘controlled’ as: the time at which the complete perimeter of a fire is secured and no breakaway is expected.
My estimate at this point is that we have secured roughly 90 per cent of the batters and the task at hand is focussing on closing out all of the hot spots in the mine and securing all batters and the mine floor.
Our systematic approach to total fire suppression in the mine has again proven that it’s the right strategy for this fire fight. Our approach has included using a combination of aircraft, CAFS (foam) aerial pumpers, tankers, and thermal imaging cameras, which have achieved excellent results in reducing active fire in the mine.
Our number one priority continues to be the safety of our people and the community, including the local residents, mine workers and all our firefighters and staff.  We have not wavered from this approach.
We are slowly reducing the levels of smoke impacting on the community which will, in time, see a respite from the harsh conditions.
We must give credit to our community engagement workers who have been developing targeted initiatives to help inform the public about this very unique incident. Both our Public Information Officers, and our Warnings and Advice staff, have worked extremely hard to help keep the community up-to-date with relevant and timely information so people can make informed decisions to better protect themselves. 
We have worked closely with the EPA, Ambulance Victoria, Victoria Police, GDF Suez, Energy Brix, and the Department of Health, on a daily basis in the Incident Management Team environment. Their collective advice and support has been invaluable.
We’ve also had the continued support from CFA’s Chief Officer Euan Ferguson and the deputies throughout this entire incident. They have provided strategic advice, encouragement and developed initiatives which have made our jobs that much easier. The Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley has also had a continued presence at the Regional Incident Control Centre and his guidance and strategic direction has been instrumental.

Within the Incident Management Team, our mapping gurus have developed a new initiative of providing linear measurements and thermal imaging measurements of the mine in both 2D and 3D formats, which is providing us with the tools to effectively target hot spots in the batters and mine floor.
Our Incident Management Team continues to work as a successful unit and its work has been tireless. They have persevered under stress and duress at times, but they have continued to pull together for their third and fourth tours of duty. 
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank my team, as well as all firefighters - both volunteer and staff from right across Australia - for their hard work which, at times has been arduous and challenging. 
Again, we work as one. 

Last Updated: 10 December 2015