Hello from the very smoky Latrobe Valley!!
Fires begun on Friday 7th between Morwell and Moe - The freeway between the 2 towns was cut and so was the rail line - didn't get reopened to Monday morning.
It was a very hot day feb 9th with gusting winds nearly all day with a very high fire threat - which of course happened and the fire started on Friday were helped along by an arsonist (s) on Sunday.
I spent most of the day trying to keep cool and following all the fire reports. Parts of Morwell were threatened and many people were evacuated, and it came so very close to the paper mill at Maryvale (I think it's is/was the largest paper mill in the southern hemisphere!)
It's been over two weeks since 2 very large grass fires joined - and unfortunately, straight to the Hazelwood Open Cut coal mine. A fire did get into the Yallourn open cut mine, but that was brought under control last week.
So many fireys, from around the Victoria and interstate have been battling to put out the blaze. It is burning in a disused part of the mine along a 6km front and about 1km down and several metres into the coal face, and although they have managed to control about 1/2 of it now, it is still going to take many more weeks until it is totally managed. As you can imagine, we are bathed in heavy plumes of choking smoke, lots of very fine ash. Totally horrific. Many people are experiencing side effects and the air quality readings have been abysmal - but apparently there is no long term danger according to the experts???
We evacuated our office last Wednesday as the smoke was so bad and very nearly did again today-only the wind changed and blew the smoke away - rats, I really wanted to go home. My office is about 500m away
from the mine.
I took this photo nearly 2 weeks ago - in the carpark of my office - the mine is up the end of the street and
around the corner
The photo below is one Neale too tonight at approx 5.30pm. He took it at the end of our street here in Churchill - You can hardly see the 8 chimneys of the power station - the smoke kicked up again at about 4.00pm with fire spreading to a coal bunker and conveyer storage area. An incredible amount of smoke and there were 3 huge helicopters flying over and dousing the fire. They were filling up with water from the Hazelwood pondage - which is a cooling lake for the power station. A little while later the roads to Churchill were blocked off in case the fire spread - it was a very warm day and the winds really kicked up - I had hopes that I wouldn't be able to make it to work tomorrow - but the threat passed and I'm sure the roads are open again! (drats)