| 05.04,19. 02:05 PM |
Melbourne factory fire at Campbellfield's Bradbury plant sends smoke over suburbs
Huge industrial fire in Melbourne's north (ABC News)
The waste storage business at the centre of an inferno spewing thick, "acidy" smoke over Melbourne had its licence to operate suspended last month by the environmental watchdog.
More than 175 firefighters have been battling the blaze — which is likely to burn for several days — at Bradbury Industrial Services in Campbellfield after a fire broke out about 6:40am.
Stu, who works as a welder at a business next door, told the ABC he had been told an accident involving a forklift sparked the blaze.
"There was a forklift [which] 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.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) said about 30 people were believed to have escaped the building at 16 Thornycroft Street before firefighters arrived.
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".
"Anyone located in these areas should shelter indoors from the smoke, ensuring all exterior doors, windows and vents are turned closed and that heating and cooling systems are turned off," the warning said.
A large plume of black smoke is spreading towards the city from the blaze, the MFB said.
Hazardous waste collection and storage company Bradbury Industrial Services is the business listed at the address of the blaze, and its sign is clearly visible on the building in aerial vision.
The company provides storage and disposal services for hazardous and industrial waste, and specialises in treating solvent and other waste from paint and related industries.
Business licence suspended after inspection
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said in a statement last month that it had suspended Bradbury Industrial Services' licence to operate on March 15 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.
In a statement this morning, the EPA said it had set up air monitoring devices in the area and was working to prevent contamination of local waterways from the fire.
People with heart or lung conditions and children aged 14 years and younger were more sensitive to the effects of breathing in smoke, the EPA said.
Workplaces evacuated, schools closed
Nearby Somerton Road has been closed between Sydney Road and Pascoe Vale Road due to the "thick smoke" blanketing the area, Vic Roads said.
Ambulance Victoria said it treated a man for an eye injury at the scene of the blaze shortly after 7:00am and the man was taken to hospital in a stable condition.
Five state schools across Dallas and Broadmeadows were closed by the Department of Education and Training "as a precautionary measure":
Fire 'contained' but likely to burn for days
More than 175 firefighters and 40 fire trucks 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 liquified petroleum gas (LPG) container next door.
"As it stands the firefighters 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."
Mr 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.
Mr 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, Mr Stephens said.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the Government was prepared to make regulatory changes if an investigation into the fire revealed shortcomings.
Thick, 'acidy' smoke blankets area
ABC Radio Melbourne caller Vivek said he could see the fire from a nearby petrol station and the smoke was "really, really bad".
"It's just like a big line of fire trucks ... you can see the fire, not only the smoke," he said.
Another caller, named Roy, said he was less than a kilometre from the fire and said he and 50 colleagues had been evacuated from their workplace.
"We could just smell it when we left our factory, it's going south, the wind's blowing it south but it's [the smoke] is just black," he said.
Julie, whose business was also evacuated, said she could hear explosions as firefighters continued to battle the blaze about 8:30am.
She described the smell of the smoke as "chemical, like fumes … acidy".
"It's really thick, black smoke, really dark," she said.