Government Announces Review Into Coolaroo Fire

14 August 2017

The Andrews Labor Government will conduct a review of last month’s fire at the SKM Recycling Plant in Coolaroo.

Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino announced the review today, which will be conducted by the Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM, Tony Pearce).

The Coolaroo fire broke out on 13 July and burned for 11 days, sending clouds of smoke across Melbourne. At the height of the blaze, hundreds of nearby residents were urged to evacuate due to concerns about air quality.

Since the Coolaroo incident, the Labor Government has worked diligently to introduce a series of improvements to keep Victorian families safe in the event of harmful fires.

An independent inquiry was established following the former Liberal Government’s neglectful handling of the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire, which burned for 45 days and sent smoke and ash over Morwell and surrounding areas.

Lessons learnt during the Hazelwood Mine Fire played a key role in handling the Coolaroo fire. Emergency workers used health monitoring data to make decisions about how harmful smoke and ash would be for locals, and people in the area had online access to air quality readings via the Environmental Protection Agency website.

This latest review is an important opportunity to confirm that the Government is working hard to do everything it can to respond to similar events.

IGEM will work closely with relevant agencies and examine key aspects of the fire including the effectiveness of the State Smoke Framework, air quality monitoring, firefighter occupational health and safety, and the Environmental Protection Authority’s processes.

The IGEM will also work closely with Emergency Management Victoria, which is undertaking a separate but complementary operational review into the incident.

A joint Government taskforce is also auditing recycling facilities to prioritise sites that require action to better protect the community.

The IGEM will deliver the report to Government by the end of November 2017.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino

“The Coolaroo fire had a significant impact on the local community and the review will ensure we know exactly what worked, what didn’t and what can be improved.”

“This review is an important opportunity to confirm the lessons identified from the Hazelwood mine fire aren’t being ignored.”

“The IGEM review will provide a valuable check to ensure that all the relevant actions items from the inquiry have been implemented and are working effectively.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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