High wind a hurdle for Vic mine fire crews

High wind a hurdle for Vic mine fire crews

06 March 2014

published by www.theaustralian.com.au

Australia — FIREFIGHTERS battling a coal mine fire in a Victorian township will have to deal with high winds on Saturday as they try to contain the blaze by the end of the long weekend.

Wind speeds on Wednesday afternoon caused the multi-million dollar fire to intensify and generate more heat, creating a challenge for crews over the next two days, Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said on Thursday.

But while upcoming weather will be good for firefighters, high winds forecast for Saturday could be a setback.

“That again will challenge firefighters to ensure they’ve got the appropriate strategy in place,” Mr Lapsley told reporters.

“They’ve got good plans that are working well.”

Fire authorities are hoping to declare the fire contained by the end of Monday but it depends on weather and the operation’s success.

“The last 15 per cent is still difficult and will take a number of days,” Mr Lapsley said.

“Even after that, we know there’ll be smoke coming out of the mine for probably weeks but it’ll be in very isolated areas.”

Many people have left with those over 65 years, preschool-aged children, pregnant women and anyone with a pre-existing heart or lung condition advised last Friday to temporarily move from Morwell South, the area close to the mine.

Chief Health Officer Rosemary Lester says the advice will be reviewed once the fire is under control.

“We’ll update our advice once we’re satisfied the air quality is been stable and the advice from the fire services commissioner is that the fire is not likely to flare up,” Dr Lester said.

“Then there will be a clean-up strategy to make sure when residents and workers return that Morwell is safe and clean for them.”

The fire began on February 9 when a deliberately-lit blaze spotted into the Hazelwood mine. Mr Lapsley says it has caused a multi-million dollar damage bill.

Meanwhile, one fire has yet to be contained after burning for 51 days in far east Gippsland.

The blaze, sparked by lightning during a record heatwave, has scorched more than 165,000ha.

Planned burns will take place across other parts of the state as temperatures ease over coming weeks.

The burns of 260,000ha of public land, recommended by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, aim to make any bushfires easier to control.

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