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Big fire at Riverland Oilseeds in Numurkah

Staff evacuated and Country Fire Authority quickly contains blaze.

KAITLIN THALS November 28, 2012 4:55am

Emergency services personnel gather at Riverland Oilseeds in Numurkah to fight yesterday's fire.


Country Fire Authority crews from as far away as Bendigo were called to help fight a blaze at a vegetable oil refinery at Numurkah yesterday.

Forty-four staff at Riverland Oilseeds factory on McDonald St were evacuated to safety when the factory alarm sounded about 10.50am.

Numurkah firefighters arrived on scene soon after and a CFA incident controller took charge of the response.

The fire was contained by about 12.30pm.

Riverland Oilseeds spokesperson Angus Trigg said the company would work with CFA and engineers to ensure the factory was safe for employees to return to work.

Mr Trigg said the fire started in the dust filter house in the mechanical press, yet the cause was still being investigated.

‘‘Safety is a major priority and we’ll be looking at getting to the causes and if any action will be taken,’’ Mr Trigg said.

Numurkah CFA spokesman Kevin Lucas said the fire, which sparked in the factory’s main building, quickly spread through two 500mm steel ducts in opposite directions.

Emergency services vehicles clogged McDonald St as members worked quickly to co-ordinate and prevent the fire spreading to the highly flammable open air hexane plant.

‘‘We wanted to keep the fire away from the open air plant because it’s a pretty flammable material used there,’’ Mr Lucas said.

‘‘One (duct) was feeding into the hexane plant and one was going into the bolt store, so we had to stop it from going both ways, which we’ve done,’’ he said.

‘‘We haven’t found out yet what caused it, usually a bit of metal gets in somewhere to spark it, but we’re still investigating the cause.’’

Mr Lucas said nine CFA tankers and two pumpers were called to the scene as back-up when the factory’s water plant failed.

He said there was little risk to nearby homes and businesses because the fire was quickly contained.

‘‘I’ve been with the brigade (at Numurkah) for 40-odd years and this is the biggest we’ve been out to here (at Riverland Oilseeds), but we’ve got all the gear to stop it,’’ Mr Lucas said.

 

Nine CFA tankers, two pumpers, Shepparton Hazmat and CFA Field Operation vehicles attended the scene, along with police and paramedics.

Emergency services blocked off all roads leading to McDonald St, Numurkah.

Riverland Oilseeds is a regional Australia canola seed crusher and vegetable oil refinery producing canola oil and meals for domestic and international markets.

The CFA urged residents experiencing symptoms of chemical exposure to seek medical attention.

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