News State Victoria News Strong winds challenge Victorian mine fire fighters

Strong winds challenge Victorian mine fire fighters

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Extra fire crews will be on stand-by to fight Victoria’s Morwell mine fire ahead of windier conditions predicted over the next two days.

Authorities have at least two extra strike teams on ready in case expected higher winds aggravate the fire that has been burning in the mine since February 9.

Crews are hoping they do not see a repeat of last Tuesday where fire escaped the mine, igniting a grass fire near the Hazlewood power station.

Incident controller Bob Barry says the fire fight in recent days has been successful, reducing fire activity in the mine, but Tuesday and Wednesday may be challenging.

“We could have a very similar scenario to last Tuesday,” he told reporters.

“We’re preparing for that.”

Authorities plan to bring two additional aircraft to support the fire fight and extra ground crews are on ready to protect infrastructure outside the mine.

“The additional strike teams will be there to stop fires that escape from the mine – as occurred last week – so we don’t have to divert resources from within the mine,” Mr Barry said.

The mine operators say they are preparing for the conditions to ensure the fire does not get out of hand.

Luc Dietvorst, head of generation at GDF Suez Australian Energy, says it acknowledges the problem Morwell locals are experiencing.

“If you have to live in that smoke it’s not easy. That’s why we have a strategy in place with the fire authorities,” he told reporters.

Mr Dietvorst says the state government regularly audits the company’s fire prevention plan and all of its mitigation strategies are in place.

He says once the fire is extinguished, the company will conduct its own probe and take part in any inquiry.

“We have nothing to hide and will go through with any inquiry that is required from us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Scouts Victoria have offered Morwell residents who want a break from the smoke temporary accommodation at campsites across Victoria.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, who visited Morwell on Monday, announced a $2 million assistance package for small businesses adversely affected by the coal mine fire.

Grants of between $1000 and $10,000 will be available to small businesses, along with a low-interest loan scheme of up to $200,000, Dr Napthine announced.

He said the funding would be provided by the Victorian government and it was also seeking federal government funding on top of that.

“When I have visited small businesses in Morwell one of the things they have emphasised to me, whether they are the local coffee shop, the local hair dresser … their turn over has gone down significantly,” he said.

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