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Latrobe Valley key messages 19/2/14
The safety of firefighters and community members is the most important consideration in this incident.
· It is a complex fire that will go on for some weeks. As these types of fires often take a long time to put out, there will be increased smoke for some time which will affect people in different ways.
· The emergency services are focused on extinguishing the fire and Department of Health and EPA will work together to monitor the smoke and provide information to the community.
· A static information bus will be in Elgin Street, between Tarwin Street and Chapel Street near the Morwell library from 1.00pm until 5.00pm today, February 19.
· Information will also be available at the following locations today:
Morwell Neighbourhood House between 3.00 and 5.00pm
Traralgon shopping centre between 9.00 and 10.00am
Cowwarr General Store between 12.00 and 1.00pm
Toongabbie Mechanics Institute between 5.30 and 6.30pm
Churchill Fire Station at 6.00pm
Glengarry Community Hall between 7.30 and 8.30pm
· Emergency services and supporting agencies will continue to keep the community informed over the coming days and weeks.
· For information about smoke and health visit: www.health.vic.gov.au
Anyone with concerns about their health should seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24.
· For information on air quality, visit: www.epa.vic.gov.au
· An Advice message from the Department of Health and CFA is in place for Morwell, Hazelwood North, Morwell Bridge, Maryvale, Morwell North, Hazelwood, Driffield, Yallourn, Churchill, Yallourn Heights, Yallourn North, Hazelwood South, Hernes Oak, Newborough and Moe. Visit www.emergency.vic.gov.au
· FAIR to VERY POOR air quality in Latrobe Valley, with periods of smoke expected on Wednesday morning.
· Possible slight smoke impacts close to the fire in Morwell today, but unlikely in other areas.
· Stay aware of changing conditions via the EPA website or by calling 1300 372 842 (1300 EPAVIC)
· High levels of smoke can aggravate existing heart or lung conditions and cause irritated eyes, coughing or wheezing. Health professionals should note the predicted smoky conditions and the potential impact on their at risk patients.
· These conditions are expected to continue in parts of the Latrobe Valley for at least the remainder of this week. The wind and weather will determine the areas to be affected.
· During extended, very smoky conditions, sensitive individuals should consider temporarily staying with a friend or relative living outside the smoke-affected area. Others should also consider a break away from the smoky conditions.
· Avoid physical activity outdoors.
· People with pre-existing lung or heart conditions in particular should rest as much as possible and keep away from the smoke.
· When at home, stay indoors with all windows and doors closed.
· If there is a break in smoky conditions, take the opportunity to air out your home to improve indoor air quality.
· If your home gets too hot to be comfortable, or is smoky, try to take an air-conditioned break at a local community library or shopping centre.
Hazelwood mine fire
· The suppression operation at Hazelwood is complex and is likely to require a high level of resources over coming weeks.
· Increasing wind forecast over the next three days could see the fire expand. Winds may freshen to 20kph today, which is earlier than expected.
· Dependent on weather, fire fighting tactics can include helicopter water bombing to reduce the heat on the coalface and support suppression activities.
· Unmanned spray systems are in place to reduce the use of firefighters on the coal face.
· Air quality is being monitored by EPA, emergency services and Hazmat technicians. Both fine particles and carbon monoxide are being measured as indicators of the impacts of smoke on local air quality.
· The levels of smoke in and around the Valley are highly variable, depending on the weather conditions. Impacts can be most severe in the Morwell area when there are light south-westerly winds or no winds to disperse smoke.
· Emergency services and the EPA will continue monitoring over coming weeks to minimise any risks to communities or firefighters.
· While there has been some improvement in air quality today, there will continue to be smoke haze in the valley for some time.
· Fire fighter safety is critical and strategies are in place to protect their health while working on these fires.
· Some firefighters are required to wear breathing apparatus and carbon monoxide levels are regularly checked.
· Firefighters and mine staff returning from work are required to go through a Health Observation Station for assessment and clearance prior to entering or leaving the mine.
· Work on hotspots continues and has been very effective in the East Field sector, with the number of hotspots here being reduced.
· Crews are focusing on establishing a mineral earth break on the eastern side of the fire.
· Deluge sprinkler systems have been set up along the South West sector and dozers are creating a mineral earth break on the mine floor.