Latrobe Valley mine fires update

EMERGENCY services and supporting agencies will update the community on the current Latrobe Valley mine fires situation at a community meeting being held in Morwell from 6pm tonight (Tuesday).

A range of representatives, including those from CFA, the Environmental Protection Authority and Department of Health will be on hand to answer questions about smoke and health impacts.

Incident controller Barry Foss said overnight more mild conditions had allowed crews to make good progress on the southern sectors of the Hazelwood mine fire.

“We will continue both ground and aerial attack on the fire, and will increase aerial support today to work on cooling the eastern end of the fire area,” he said.

“EPA reports good air quality in the Valley today, so we’re advising people to take the opportunity to open windows and doors and allow clean air to circulate through their houses, offices and work places.

“The smoke has also abated today, but we encourage everyone to keep monitoring local conditions as they may change with prevailing winds – poor air quality could return when the winds move southerly.”

Anyone with smoke-related health issues should avoid prolonged or heavy physical activity and keep informed about fire activity in their immediate area. In extended, very smoky local conditions, sensitive individuals should consider temporarily staying with a friend or relative living outside the smoke-affected area. Others should also consider a break away from the smoky conditions if practical.

Mr Foss said light south-westerly breezes could continue all week but would peak around 40 to 60 km/h on Wednesday and Thursday, further complicating the fire fight.

“We currently have over 200 CFA and MFB fire fighters on this operation, with 100 mine staff, 30 incident management team personnel, nine medical monitoring personnel, supported by numerous tankers, heavy pumping vehicles, aerial ladder vehicles and aircraft,” he said.

“They’re all doing a great job in difficult conditions, with potentially weeks of work ahead of them.

Their safety, and that of the community, is our highest priority and we have brought in additional aircraft today in response to the changing fire and weather conditions and are also setting up unmanned spray systems to reduce the use of fire fighters on the coal face.”

Fire suppression activities at the Yallourn open cut mine will be increased to continue to extinguish spot fires throughout the disused section of the mine. This may include helicopter water-bombing, depending on weather conditions.

A community meeting will be held tonight, Tuesday, February 18, from 6pm at Kernot Hall, corner of Princes Drive and Monash Way, Morwell.

A limited shuttle bus service will be operating for those without transport. The service will run from 5pm with pick-up points at the Morwell Bowls club, 52 Hazelwood Rd, and the Latrobe City Council chambers, 141 Commercial Rd, Morwell.

The Mobile Education Unit will be at Mid-Valley Shopping Centre from 3pm till 4pm this afternoon and then at Commercial Rd in the CBD from 4.30pm till 5.30pm.