Four people, including a child, have been hospitalised with smoke inhalation after a recycling plant in Coolaroo was engulfed in flames and sent toxic smoke across Melbourne’s north.
Police and SES crews door knocked neighbouring suburbs, telling residents of 115 homes to evacuate overnight as smoke billowed across Melbourne’s north and west and dumped ash onto properties more than 15 kilometres away.
A Victoria Ambulance spokesperson told The New Daily there were five calls to triple-0 due to people suffering respiratory problems with four people taken to hospital.
The fire, which broke out at SKM Recycling on Maffra Street about 9am on Thursday, continues to burn 24 hours later.
“It is the size of a sports field, it is as high as a factory,” Emergency Services Minister James Merlino told reporters on Friday.
“It is highly likely that there will be further recommendations to evacuate.”
The Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) expects it will take three days to get control of the fire which started in a heap of cardboard, paper and plastic.
— Paul Stacchino (@MFBChief) July 13, 2017
The Environment Protection Authority has declared air quality across the affected areas to be of “very poor” quality.
“If you choose to stay, emergency services may not be able to help you,” the evacuation warning says.
Ambulance Victoria treated eight patients suffering from smoke-induced asthma symptoms, while four others, including a four-year-old girl, were taken to hospital for smoke-related respiration problems.
EPA chief executive Nial Finegan said there was going to be a planned inspection at the centre on Thursday, before the fire took hold.
“That shows concern on the site,” he told reporters.
The site previously caught fire in February, June and again on Wednesday night, in an unrelated blaze.
Premier Daniel Andrews said his thoughts were with local residents.
Opposition Liberal emergency services spokesman Brad Battin said no one was taking responsibility for the fire.
Our firefighters have spent the last day battling Coolaroo blaze. Emergency services helping local residents. My thoughts are with you all.
— Daniel Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) July 14, 2017
“No one wants to take responsibility… the government must step in [and] explain to the people why they aren’t in their homes today,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
A watch and act warning for smoke remains in place for a number of suburbs across Melbourne’s north including Broadmeadows, Campbellfield, Fawkner, Glenroy, Jacana, Westmeadows.
Residents in neighbouring suburbs are being told turn off air-conditioning and heating and close windows and doors.
A relief centre has been set up at the Broadmeadows Aquatic and Leisure Centre located at 41-85 Tanderrum Way, Broadmeadows.
— VicEmergency (@vicemergency) July 13, 2017