Hazelwood Open Cut Mine Fire

February 2014

CFA (Country Fire Authority) uses ARGOS as part of their emergency response in connection with the major fire in Morwell.

On February 9th 2014 in extreme fire conditions, a fast moving grass & scrub fire occurred on the outskirts of Morwell. This fire then before it made its way into the large open cut coal mine of the Hazelwood Power Generation Complex. The fire then spread to an area of approximately 1,000,000m2 within the mine and has been active for more than three weeks. It is expected to remain for at least another two weeks. Meanwhile health concerns continue for firefighters on scene and residents in the nearby town of Morwell (with 13.000 residents), with very poor air quality due to emissions produced from the fire.


Why is the fire so hard to put out?

Large scale open-cut fires are often difficult to manage. Water is usually the first resort to quench the active fire, but the complex structure of the mine makes access problematic and the smoke and fumes such as Carbon Monoxide pose a significant health risk to the firefighters.

The logistics of dealing with this size of fire are quite staggering in terms of people, machinery, water and length of time. The danger is that the visible fire will be extinguished but the underlying coal will remain hot. If this is the case and air can get into the seam, the fire can rekindle, days, months or even years into the future. This has been observed here and overseas on many occasions.


Predicting the Spread of the emissions using ARGOS

CFA are using ARGOS to continually predict dispersal of emissions from the fire, in particular Carbon Monoxide. In fact, ARGOS was modified with new facilities specifically to support the authorities in connection with the Hazelwood fire. The new facilities support predictions from fires and releases originating from larger areas, as opposed to a single point of release. Now they can setup up to ten individual sources simulating the entire area of the fire and ARGOS provides a detailed and accurate prediction of how the cloud of smoke and pollution will spread.


The fire is extremely serious with vast consequences for our community. Therefore, we appreciate using ARGOS when working on the incident. We also appreciate the assistance provided by PDC in providing a rapid upgrade to enable ARGOS to meet our needs for this unique incident. The forecasts produced by ARGOS provide the ability to understand how future emissions may disperse from such a complex incident and provide a valuable planning tool for our incident management team and scientific staff.

Says Darren Simon, Project Manager Plume Modelling, Country Fire Authority, Australia