Blaze ‘did not begin in mine’

The Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry report has ruled out the suggestion the mine fire spread from pre-existing spotfires within the mine.

The report states falling embers from the Hernes Oak-McDonalds Track fire, which started on Friday, 7 February, sparked the fire though it is possible, but less likely that embers from the Driffield fire also contributed to its ignition.

Evidence and information presented by then-Chief Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley, Department of Environment and Primary Industries manager of the strategic bushfire assessment unit Jaymie Norris and bushfire risk consultant Roderick Incoll about fire activity on the day indicated the fire did not begin in the mine.

“I think it has actually put to bed the myth of what people believed of the fire starting in the mine,” Mr Lapsley said.

“It’s clear in our mind that it was a fire that ran in on the vegetation in the Hernes Oak fire and also the fact there was airborne embers from both fires that dropped into the mine.

“We haven’t got any evidence at all that there was a fire that started within the mine separate to that of the two fires impacting.”

Photographs, logs, notes and videos recorded by various mine personnel supported claims embers rained down from the nearby fires with the first observation of embers spotting into the mine at 1.45pm on 9 February.

The first recorded fire within the mine was close to ‘the Knuckle’ with several GDF Suez personnel noticing the fire.

Following this sighting, a number of mine personnel observed spot fires in the northern batters and in the overburden dump in the mine floor between 2pm and 2.30pm.

GDF Suez operator James Mauger said he estimated it took about 50 minutes from the time he first saw the fire in the northern batters for all levels of the batters to ignite, burning powerpoles in its wake.