Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Rochester fire brigade keeps Hazlewood power station running

Firefighters Mick Hassell, Colin Harris, Vaughn Thomas and Peter Matthes were assigned to defend vital pipelines threatened by the Morwell coal mine blaze.

ELAINE COONEY March 4, 2014 2:05pm

Rochester fire captain Mick Hassell managed took this photo of brigade member Peter Matthes at the coal mine fire in Morwell last week.

The Rochester fire brigade helped prevent Hazlewood power station from shutting down last week.

The four-person crew was in charge of preventing the fire from reaching two plastic pipes on the edge of the coal pit.

Fire captain Mick Hassell said if the fire reached the pipes, the station would have had to close down.

The crew managed to control the blaze.

It was not without risk; the crew had to report back on their progress and health every 15 minutes but were too busy working on the fire.

The members were tested regularly to prevent them taking in too much carbon monoxide.

Mr Hassell had a reading of five parts per million (ppm) in his breathwhich exceeded a safe amountbut when he retook the test it had fallen to four ppm and he was allowed to remain on site.

Fire brigade member Vaughn Thomas had a reading of one ppm and the other members were clear.

‘‘One young bloke from Cobram was not allowed near the site for 40 hours (due to a high carbon monoxide reading),’’ Mr Thomas said.

Mr Hassell said the smoke was so think that the crew could not see a metre in front of them, or the flames.

Fire brigade member Colin Harris said the ground was covered with coal dust, which caught alight suddenly in different spots.

‘‘You look around and there could be a new fire under the truck,’’ he said.

‘‘It was a totally different environment,’’ Mr Thomas said.

The crew worked on the fire on Tuesday and Wednesday and returned on Thursday.

Elaine Cooney

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