South-west CFA crews called in to Morwell fire

FIREFIGHTERS from the south-west have been drawn into the battle to control the Hazelwood coal fire in the state’s east.

Brigades from Winslow and Warrnambool have been deployed to help fight the blaze embedded in the coalmine and spreading toxic smoke and fumes over nearby Morwell and district. 

Warrnambool CFA operations officer Henry Barton said six firefighters trained to use aerial pumpers and another eight staff from the city’s incident control centre had joined the effort to control the blaze, which began on February 9. 

The fire is confined to a disused section of the mine near the Hazelwood power station. 

“It’s pretty tough work. It’s hot and dirty during the day and very cold at night,” Mr Barton said. 

“It’s a deep-seated fire and it’s going to take a lot of work.” Crews are spending  only short periods of time battling the blaze because of carbon monoxide fears. 

“They’re rotating them through in two-hour shifts,” Mr Barton said. 

More CFA members from the south-west will head to the mine today. 

“We’ve still got the Winslow tanker there but the crew have come back,” Mr Barton said. 

He said those returning to the south-west had been unharmed by the carbon monoxide fumes.

“They’re all OK, that’s our priority — the safety of our firefighters.” 

Elderly, sick and pregnant residents were advised to leave the Gippsland town late yesterday.

Mr Barton said the CFA hoped to have the blaze under control in the next two weeks to hand back to the operators of the mine.

Police believe the fire was started by an arsonist. 

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