Blaze Aid acts to protect south-west volunteers

The peat fire at Cobrico near Cobden.
The peat fire at Cobrico near Cobden.

Blaze Aid is taking precautions to ensure its volunteers working on the recovery effort for the St Patrick’s Day fires are tested for any carbon monoxide poisoning.

Blaze Aid president Kevin Butler said it was taking full duty of care steps for its volunteers and encouraging them to be regularly tested for carbon monoxide from peat smoke if they were working near peat fires that were ignited during the St Patrick’s Day blazes.

Mr Butler said the safety of its volunteers was of paramount importance to Blaze Aid.

His comments come after Rebecca Hope, of Bookar, reported that she and one of her sons Josh, 11, recorded elevated levels of carbon monoxide after working as Blaze Aid volunteers at Elingamite, near the Lake Elingamite peat fire on Thursday, April 5. 

Another son, Luke, 9 had also done volunteer work that day but not suffered any problems.

Mrs Hope said there had been smoke in the work site in the morning but it cleared up by the afternoon.

Mrs Hope said she and her son Josh had suffered headaches after clearing burnt fencing.

Blaze Aid had told all volunteers in her work crew that day to get tested for carbon monoxide poisoning, she said. 

After she and Josh got tested and recorded elevated levels of carbon monoxide, the tester asked them to report back the next morning for a further check, which they did. 

By then, Josh’s levels had returned to a safe reading but she was kept at the testing station for a few hours and guided through deep breathing exercises that helped to reduce her levels to a safe reading, she said.

Fire incident controller Mark Gunning said the CFA worked with Blaze Aid to ensure its volunteers working near the peat fires had access to testing and were encouraged to get a test if they felt symptoms.

The CFA had given carbon monoxide detectors to people living close to the peat fires to help them test themselves, Mr Gunning said. No elevated carbon monoxide levels had been recorded in recent days, he said.

Mr Gunning said the air quality in the Elingamite and Cobrico areas had improved significantly in recent days and the air quality alert zone around the fires had been reduced from one kilometre to 500 metres.

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