The Somerton Tip Fire started at approximately 02:30hrs on 20 November 2015 at a private refuse facility in Patullos Lane, Somerton. Smoke management and Carbon Monoxide protocols were activated early with a monitoring and management plan established for the fireground, identified exposures and areas of the surrounding community.

As the Somerton Tip Fire was one of the first fires of this scale and complexity since the State Smoke Framework was released, it was an important opportunity to capture what was done to address smoke and air quality impacts of the Somerton Tip Fire. The Emergency Management Commissioner requested that Terramatrix lead a review of the operational application of the State Smoke Framework to the Somerton Tip Fire.

The Review focused on incident tier arrangements during the first three days of the fire. Analysis of the five policy documents that constitute the Smoke Framework identified 112 requirements of emergency management personnel. Of the 112 requirements only two requirements were not met, and one of these, relating to the support desired from the owners/operators of the waste facility, was outside the control of the fire and emergency services.

All personnel interviewed as part of this Review credited the Framework for greatly increased cooperation and common understanding compared to the Hazelwood Mine Fire. Respondents acknowledged that the Framework defined clear roles for each agency and guided interactions between them to provide an effective focus on smoke management and reduce the potential for harm to responders and the community.

The review identified that future application of the Framework would be assisted by:

  • · finalisation of agency procedures;
  • · development of systems to better manage atmospheric monitoring data;
  • · provision of training to emergency responders and incident / emergency management personnel; and
  • · conducting of multi-agency exercises focusing on smoke management.

The State Smoke Working Group has been presented with the review and is currently working through the findings to identify current/potential treatment options to ensure continuous improvement of the State Smoke Framework.

 

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