About 30 firefighters were called to the Maryvale paper mill on Tuesday evening for an “arduous” firefight, forcing a paper machine offline for repairs.
According to an Australian Paper spokesperson, a failed drier screen bearing in the ‘M4’ production unit sparked the blaze about 6.20pm.
Country Fire Authority incident controller Peter Lockwood said onsite sprinkler systems had suppressed most of the blaze, with the majority of firefighter work focused on blacking out hotspots.
“The fire was pretty intense to start with, but sprinkler systems did a good job of that – from there it was more about tracking down those hotspots in breathing apparatus,” Mr Lockwood said.
“One of our biggest concerns going in was how far the fire had spread, but it didn’t leave the confines of the machine itself; it was really the paper on the roll and paper dust which comes from paper manufacturing which had caught alight.
“It was a pretty arduous situation – from the basement through to the top, the machine is about three or four storeys high, and quite long, so blokes were going inside very tight walkways inside the machine with heat cameras hunting out hotspots.”
Mr Lockwood said while it appeared most of the damage was superficial, the maintenance repairs would reveal how far into the machine the fire spread.
The Australian Paper spokesperson said a 24-hour maintenance scheduled for today was brought forward to allow for damage repairs, a process predicted to take up to 30 hours.
“The fire occurred in a really small section of the paper machine, where it has only caused minimal damage,” the spokesperson said.