Explosions, smoke from huge Campbellfield factory fire, Melbourne, Australia
More than 175 fire fighters were battling a blaze, which burned for several days, at Bradbury Industrial Services in Campbellfield, Melbourne, after a fire broke out about 6h40 on Thursday, 4 April 2019. In a statement, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) said about 30 people were believed to have escaped the building at 16 Thornycroft Street before fire fighters arrived. One worker was seriously burnt in the fire and another was taken to hospital in a stable condition with an eye injury. Authorities issued a watch and act warning shortly after the fire started and are urged anyone in Broadmeadows, Campbellfield, Coolaroo, Dallas and Somerton to "take shelter indoors immediately". A downgraded warning issued at 13h19 told residents smoke from the fire could still be in the area and to limit their time spent outdoors.
An eyewitness said he had been told an accident involving a forklift sparked the blaze. "There was a forklift that accidentally pierced a drum which then fell and obviously a steel drum on concrete, created a spark and with the fumes, one can only assume that it ignited," he said. Bradbury Industrial Services provides storage and disposal services for hazardous and industrial waste and specialises in treating solvent and other waste from paint and related industries.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said in a statement last month that it had suspended the company's licence to accept waste on 15 March 2019 after an inspection by officers. The officers found the company was "storing more waste than permitted under its EPA licence" and that storage containers were not adequately labelled. The EPA's Damian Wells said the business was permitted to store 150 000 litres of hazardous materials and had been found with 400 000 litres at the inspection.
He said an inspection by an officer found about 300 000 litres of materials at the property. "We believe this has been very poor form by the duty holder," Wells said. He said the removal of the materials from the premises involved a lot of preparation due to the volatile nature of the chemicals involved. "These are highly flammable materials and in terms of moving them, it's quite a significant operation," he said. The EPA said it had set up air-monitoring devices in the area and despite the fire, smoke levels were low. "Immediately south of the fire we picked up elevated smoke levels and we have undertaken monitoring in the residential areas," the agency's Andrea Hinwood said. "The good news is that the levels are very low, so even though we saw a big plume, levels are good." She said authorities were working to prevent contamination of the nearby Merlynston Creek and urged people to stay away from the creek.
Nearby Somerton Road was closed between Sydney Road and Pascoe Vale Road due to the "thick smoke" that blanketed the area as the fire raged on Friday morning. Several state schools in the area were affected by the blaze, with some closed by the Department of Education and Training "as a precautionary measure". Students who had already arrived at some schools were kept inside due to the smoke warnings.
More than 175 fire fighters and 40 fire engines have been battling the blaze. MFB chief officer Dan Stephens said flammable liquids stored at the premises had caught fire, creating running fuel fires which crews managed to prevent from reaching a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) container next door.
"As it stands the fire fighters have been able to contain the fire to the premise, there will be some heat and smoke damage to the surrounding premises … but as it stands we have managed to contain the fire." Stephens said the Campbellfield fire was of a "similar scale" to the inferno which tore through a West Footscray warehouse in August last year and sparked major public health warnings. "Whilst we very quickly have managed to surround the fire and bring the fire under control, this incident is likely to last for a number of days," he said.
He said he could not provide specific detail on the business operating at the premises but said the MFB and other agencies had been "aware" of the premises before the blaze.
Stephens said public agencies were doing everything within their power and capacity to manage the risk posed by businesses storing hazardous and flammable waste. "We are doing everything we can but there is a limit to that which we can do, because there are very, very significant numbers of these premises out there," he said. "Ultimately it is the responsibility of the owners and occupiers to adhere to the regulations and clearly, those that don't will be subject to the full force of the Victorian law."
Statements from workers in the building would be taken by MFB investigators before they determined the cause of the blaze, Stephens said. The MFB also asked the coroner to run its own investigation into the blaze and coroner Darren Bracken was due to visit the site this afternoon.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the Government was prepared to make regulatory changes if an investigation into the fire revealed shortcomings.
Source: ABC News