Fires at the Hazelwood coal mine have been brought under control, according to Victoria Fire Services commissioner Craig Lapsley at a press conference just moments ago.
“It’s been a really challenging, but very successful firefight,” he said.
“Although it’s a long time, 29 days is a long time to bring it under control, but it was a very successful firefight.”
The Hazelwood coal mine fire started after bushfires in the area ignited the open cut brown coal body, and have presented health risks to Morewell locals prompting government warnings and relocation advice.
Commissioner Lapsley said that there are still hotspots, predominantly in the floor of the mine.
“It’s not a flat floor, it’s quite undulating in the way it’s presented, and until we get decent rain, we’ll keep seeing puffs of smoke from the mine.”
The mine is expected to be fully extinguished this weekend, if weather forecasts remain true.
“Extinguished would be a good inch of rain, and hopefully that’s on Saturday, according to weather forecasts,” Lapsley said.
“It was mostly surface fire fighting and not subsurface heat… if it was deepseated it would have been a lot longer, and in some cases, even years to bring under control.
“Those are the challenges of brown coal.”
Commissioner Lapsley said that significant earthmoving operations will commence to tackle hotspots still in the floor of the Hazelwood mine.
Chief health officer Dr Rosemary Lester said that health warnings around the mine will remain in place, despite improving air quality conditions in Morwell.
“It won’t be lifted today given the air quality we’ve seen, we’re reviewing constantly, we’ll make that announcement as soon as possible,” she said.
“We had hoped to make it today given the good air quality we’ve seen.”
Dr Lester indicated that almost 600 relocation grants have been processed by the Department of Health during the last 29 days, as well as 1300 respite grants.
“The advice from the fire services commissioner is that the fire has been brought under control,” she said.
“We’ve got our controls on successive days of air quality, but we’ll be working with the EPA on that.”