Canberra firefighters return from Victorian mine fire

Canberra firefighters return from Victorian mine fire

28 March 2014

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Australia — Dozens of Canberra firefighters who travelled to Victoria to contain a long-running fire at the Hazelwood coal mine have begun their journey back to the capital.

The fire has lasted for a marathon 45 days, sparked when a passing bushfire ignited brown coal inside the mine.

ACT Fire and Rescue deputy chief Conrad Barr said the involvement of ACT Fire and Rescue in firefighting operations ceased at 8pm on Tuesday.

“We sent 17 teams down to Victoria, which were comprised of 122 firefighters and 12 mechanics from the ESA fleet management section,” he said.

“At the peak of our involvement we had eight vehicles in Victoria.”

“One contingent of firefighters returned to Canberra on Wednesday night and the rest will return later in the week once vehicles have been completely detailed and cleaned.”

Mr Barr said Victorian authorities called on ACT Fire and Rescue because of their specialist equipment and experience, particularly their possession of compressed air and foam vehicles.

“These are very specialised vehicles and they were required to fight the open-cut coal mine fire,” he said.

“There are only 14 of these vehicles in Australia and we have 10 of them here in the ACT.”

“The compression foam technology was very useful in fighting the coalmine fire as it enabled firefighters to produce foam that either sticks like a heavy blanket, or is wider and a wetter foam.”

Mr Barr said it was very common for ACT Fire and Rescue services to be redeployed interstate and for state authorities to assist each other when required.

“The Victorian authorities have given us assistance in previous years, as have firefighters and chiefs from a number of states across Australia,” he said.

“We believe we can count on assistance from Victorian fire services should we require their support in the future.”

Mr Barr said the deployment to Victoria has been a valuable experience for many ACT firefighters who found it a unique and interesting experience.

“An open-cut coal mine fire is not something that we’re going to experience in the ACT,” he said.

The Hazelwood coal mine fire has now been declared safe by Victorian authorities and management of the site has now been returned to the mine’s operator GDF Suez.

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