Hazelwood mine fire controlled

RAIN would be the final straw in extinguishing the Hazelwood mine fire, which was today declared “controlled” by Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley.

“There is no expectation of any further fire activity of any significance and there won’t be any fire moving out of the pit,” Mr Lapsley said.

“There will continue to be some smoke coming out of the open cut periodically over the next few days and that could extend for at least a week or until at least we get good rains.

“There’s rain forecasted on Saturday. If the rains eventuate they will be the final stage of bringing this fire to its totality where we can move the fire from controlled to safe.”

However fire services will continue to work in the mine monitoring hot spots in the southern batters and to carry out earth moving works.

Victoria’s chief health officer Dr Rosemary Lester said while she hoped to lift the relocation advice today, it was not possible as air quality was still low.

“It was very encouraging to see the increase in air quality over the last couple of days and indeed a week with progress made on the fire,” Dr Lester said.

“We will continue to work with the Environment Protection Authority as we have throughout this incident and we will review that constantly to see when we can lift that advice to temporarily relocate and advise those vulnerable groups can now return to Morwell.”

EPA air quality readings for Morwell South, Morwell East and Traralgon have been fluctuating between ‘Very Good’ and ‘Good’ at the weekend for carbon monoxide, fine particulates and visibility since 5pm on Friday.

The EPA stated on Friday PM 2.5 – the invisible particles causing the most health concern for residents – were at their lowest levels since the Hazelwood coal mine fire started almost a month ago.

However by 5am today PM 2.5 had become ‘Poor’ at 25.7 micrograms per cubic metre, and visibility reduction had become ‘Very Poor’.

Meanwhile, Mr Lapsley has announced a review of fire management plans for Latrobe Valley’s brown coal mines.

“We have learned a lot over the past four weeks. The idea behind this review is to use our experiences to review the fire management planning approach to brown coal open cut mining,” he said.

“It will consider policy, practices and guides that are currently used by the industry and emergency services for preventing fires, responding to fires and protection of assets, infrastructure and people.”

Mr Lapsley said the review would be driven by his office and would include the Central Gippsland Essential Industry Group.